Thursday, August 23, 2007

Red and Yellow, Black and White...

According to my employer, the EEOC recently decided their definitions for military status and ethnicity were insufficient, and all Equal Opportunity Employers (which I'm guessing is government-subsidised in some way, though I haven't done the research to find out) needed to re-register ("re-identify") their personnel according to the new definitions.

It would seem to me that the way to best manage not factoring race or ethnicity into the hiring/promotion/compensation equation would be to not address it whatsoever. Imagine my surprise, then, when I got an email from our Human Resources department this morning stating, "Our records show you have completed the military section of the self identification process but have not completed your ethnic designation. I've attached instructions for reference purposes." The instructions she referred to were a memo we all received in our Inbox two weeks ago stating the following:

Action Required
Reminder all associates are required to re-identify both ethnicity and military status during the period, August 1-24, 2007.

Only problem with that, of course, is that there was no option in their drop-down list for, "I decline to answer this question because it's none of your freakin' business."

The email actually caused my breath to lodge in my throat. I read and re-read the corporate email, making sure I understood what I could potentially be getting myself into before I shot off at the mouth (or, in this instance, fingers), then ever-so-politely responded, "Stuff it." Okay, it was actually something more like, "Is this meaning to say that RBFC is requiring me to identify my ethnicity as a condition of my employement here?"

Moments later, my phone rang. I spent the following ten minutes listening to a corporate PR rep try to smooth my ruffled feathers. No, of course the information would never be used to determine eligibility for promotion or pay (all of these are, of course, merit-based). No, they didn't want to use the word, "require", and didn't I want to be a good little employee and just fill out the form? The HR person assured me the information would never be linked to my social security number, my employee ID number, my name, or any other identifying information.

Why, then, did I get an email, specifically addressed to me, informing me of what I had and had not registered for? If the registration isn't in any way linked to my employment information, how would they even know I hadn't registered my ethnicity? I call bull-shit.

The problem, of course, is that the deadline is tomorrow. There's no way I can even scratch the surface on the information I'd need to thumb through in order to clarify whether they can, in fact, enforce the policy that all employees must identify themselves by race.

I guess tomorrow I'll phone up the local EEOC branch and spin a couple questions past some unsuspecting office clerk. Poor thing.

Wish 'em luck, won't you? I'm going on the warpath...

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