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...

Monday, August 20, 2007

Death and Taxes... and a 300-pound banana

"It's vulgar," says Lucy, an aging woman across the row from me on the KC Transit bus home. Her blue eyeliner was melting into the crows' feet that have been cut at the corners of her eyes by years of hard work and harder living. "I'm gonna write somebody about it. Don't know who, exactly, but somebody."

"It's art!" exclaims a man with silver at his temples in a business suit and an obnoxious tie that seems to perfectly compliment his obnoxious personality.

"Art my ass," retorts Lucy with a snort. "Art's supposed to be inspiring. All that's inspirin' me to do is blush. Ain't no sense in them makin us pay more taxes fer that sort'o mess."

"You don't find a fourteen-foot banana inspiring?" I ask, mirth playing at the corner of my mouth, which seems to be drawing itself into a lopsided smirk of its own accord.

Lucy smiles tenderly at me. I think she likes me, but it's hard to tell with that tough exterior of hers. "It oughta be taken down and burned, I say."

"Well, lucky for you, then - it's temporary. I think it's supposed to come down at the end of the summer."

"God works in mysterious ways," she trails off, turning to look out the window. Sometimes I wonder if Lucy is sane.

Half an hour goes by, and the men in starched white shirts behind us are still talking about the giant paper mache` banana protruding proudly from the side of The Folly Theatre. The piece is called, "Staying the Course" which you may recognize as the ultra-naive anthem sung by our current president and his cohorts. One of the men in white collars finds the name in the article he's been passing around, which brings about a whole new round of argument over the attributes and atrocities of the incognizant fruit.

"All this fuss over a banana," mutters Pea, shaking his head at the noise a few rows back.

"Yeah, but it's a really big banana!" I joke, elbowing him gently. Pea just rolls his eyes.

Like it or not, the banana's not going anywhere for awhile. May as well make the best of it - anybody up for fruit salad?