It is not breaking news that America’s workforce is becoming increasingly diverse. In just 12 years, the combination of African-American, Hispanic and Asian workers will be the majority of the U.S. workforce according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Last month, women surpassed men as the dominant gender among American workers and that will not likely change. And while diversity initiatives are all the rage in many companies, it appears that some employees and employers have not accepted these inevitable realities and how to cope with them now and in the future.
On Friday evening, January 17, Sherrilyn Ifill (Mark’s college classmate) boarded a north bound Amtrak train in Washington D.C. headed to its first stop in Baltimore. Shortly after the train left, a conductor approached Ms. Ifill and asked her to leave her seat and move further back in the train because she had “other people coming” to whom she “wants to give this seat.” Objectively, the request made no sense because the train had no assigned seats and more importantly, the conductor surely knew from Ms. Ifill’s ticket that she was getting off at the next stop. So unless these “other people” were going to hijack the train somewhere between DC and Baltimore and insist on having Ms. Ifill’s seat, there was no reason for her to move before she de-trained in Baltimore.
If the conductor’s request was not illogical enough, unless she is visually impaired (formerly “blind”), in which case we’re being insensitive to her disability, there is a good chance that she recognized that Ms. Ifill is African-American or black, that she was asking her to leave a seat and move toward the back of the train for no apparent reason on (timing is everything) Martin Luther King Day weekend. The lightbulb should have gone on with that information alone. What the conductor more likely didn’t know was that she had asked the President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund to move to the back of the bus train, days before MLK Day. Talk about your bad day at work. Now, while we regularly conduct diversity training to help sensitize employees to everyday issues that they might not realize could offend co-workers or customers, we can’t assess whether the conductor who caused this train wreck needed that training or something else–but images of the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz do come to mind.
This isn’t Amtrak’s only diversity derailment of 2020. The week before, Amtrak told two wheelchair bound people who wanted tickets from Chicago to Bloomington Illinois that they’d have to pay $25,000 for the ride. Now, we’re from Jersey and don’t know much about that Middle West part of the country, but we reckon that Chicago to Bloomington just isn’t that far and that $25,000 might be a tad excessive. Turns out we’re right, because a ticket for the non-disabled is $16 for that same trip. It also turns out that the prospective passengers work for Access Living, a disability services and advocacy organization. Talk about your bad start to the new year.
Listen up @Amtrak. Before you implement your new pricing model, requiring pregnant women to pay for two seats, and set your dining car meat only menu during Lent and pork special for Ramadan, we are willing to offer you a discount on the Kluger Healey diversity training program—Remedial Class. Contact us at Info@Klugerhealey.com or tweet at us at @EmploymentLawNJ.
If it makes you feel any better @Amtrak, you’re not alone. Microsoft recently outed itself on its internal diversity, noting that 29% of its employees are women, most of whom are in the retail division (which makes sense because women like to shop, right?). The report also revealed that while it had a 63% and 46% growth in director level positions held by black and Hispanic employees respectively, employees in those demographics only held 2.5% and 4.7% of the director level positions respectively. Microsoft has pledged to do more.
Here are a few more heartwarming stories. Chipolte recently paid $95,000 to an employee whose manager locked him in the walk-in freezer because he complained about sexual harassment. The manager probably just told him to go in there to cool off. Everyone’s so sensitive these days. A woman recently filed a lawsuit in NYC claiming that her employer fired her for violating the anti-harassment policy because her co-worker boyfriend showed other employees the naked selfies she sent to him presumably for only his own viewing pleasure. That the woman had only recently given birth and the employer fired her the week before Christmas should probably make Amtrak feel less alone in the world. And while this goes back a few years, it never gets old. A federal court slammed a Chicago employment agency for its classic ad seeking: Lots of Mexicans. Honest and sincere (provide the best Mexicans). We’re not sure exactly what is wrong with seeking the best employees of any nationality as long as you don’t end up putting them in the freezer.
No joke though, diversity/sensitivity training is really a good idea these days. IQ testing might also be helpful.