Thursday, March 13, 2008

New York City settles discrimination case for $21M

Eliot Spitzer isn't the only one in New York that's paying for mistakes.

New York City has agreed to settle an employment discrimination case that dates back to 1999 for $21 million. This case is particularly interesting given its focus on recruiting practices.

The class action lawsuit was filed by black and Hispanic employees of the Department of Parks and Recreation who complained that the department was illegally discriminating in its promotion and assignment practices.

"The plaintiffs complained that they were bypassed by promotions because of a recruiting program Mr. Stern [the former Parks commissioner] had started to recruit young graduates of elite colleges — nearly all of them white — to fill positions in the agency."

Of the recruiting program, Mr. Stern said:
"The program was to get young college graduates to work long hours at low salaries. The problem was you couldn’t
[get] black graduates to work for $22,000 or $25,000, either because they had loans or were offered better jobs by companies that wanted them."

What could the City have done to prevent this situation? Given the actual statistics (the article states 40 of the 179 hired were black or Hispanic), this was likely more about the fairness and perception of the process rather than hiring numbers. A different communication strategy and engagement with current employees likely would have gone a long way toward preventing the complaints.

Note that this lawsuit is separate but related from a one filed in 2002 (that was settled in 2005) which claimed that the department was illegally discriminating by favoring whites for promotion. That suit contended that:

"Time and again...the Parks Department failed to follow any objective guidelines for determining promotions and filling management positions, failed to post notices of job openings, and ‘’rarely, if ever'’ conducted the required interviews for vacancies."

As part of the current settlement agreement, the City agreed to:

"train interviewers to ensure that employees who apply for promotions are treated fairly and objectively; and to examine the process by which managers are selected in the future."

Good lessons for employers everywhere.

1 comment:

HRagitator said...

This sounds like a case of poor management more than anything else, but it does also seem like the deparment didn't have the money to hire as many minority workers as they would have liked.

Regardless, nothing reeks of discrimination more than hiring Ivy League white men into cushy parks and recs jobs.