EEO Political Correctness Pitfalls in the Construction Industry
Until my union roofing company that had been in business since 1946, closed early in 2010 due to the disastrous economy, I spent fifteen years stationed at the front desk; directing the incoming calls, babysitting the fax machine, serving as secretary to 3-4 estimators, scheduling the repair department and doing the data entry that kept the wheels turning.
I was the first point of contact for everyone who walked in the door. It was not a high-traffic situation and I sailed through most days with nobody except the mailperson stopping by. (I say mailperson because for the first 10 years it was a Japanese-American man originally from Honolulu and the last 5 years it was an apparently white woman who mentioned family in Utah). That may sound like nitpicking; but, that’s because you haven’t been keeping abreast of the DOL/EEOC requirements, like I did after our company had been audited by the DOL in the late 1990s.
After the DOL auditor (who appeared to be African-American) spent several days going through our employee records and confidentially interviewing our field employees, I was presented with a new directive. When jobseekers walked in, I was required to enter the date, their name and ethnicity in a log along with what directions I gave them as jobseekers. We were a union shop so what I always told them was easy…. Go to the union. We NEVER hired anyone who wasn’t dispatched by the union. I even photocopied stacks of Google maps, with the route highlighted to help them find their way!
The pitfalls? It is politically incorrect to guess that a Mexican-looking person who speaks broken English with a strong Spanish accent is actually Hispanic. He MUST self-identify according to EEO requirements. I felt like a fool asking a shingling crew of Spanish-speaking guys with phony-looking IDs if they were from Mexico. One actually asked if I really believed the ID was legit!
According to the DOL, I can’t question the authenticity of ID because that’s discriminatory. The Social Security number verification system known as E-Verify is the politically-correct way to determine employment eligibilty. It is supposed to be used for ALL new hires so as not to discriminate against suspected illegals. It always seemed grossly unfair to me that the union could sign up anyone who walked in the door; but, if we hired someone the union dispatched to us who turned out to be an illegal alien, we were responsible!
The EEO question was not settled merely through the hiring process. Some government contracts required monthly filings of all the crew; hours worked, job title, sex, ethnicity. Imagine our joy when we promoted a female Korean-American and a male Native American/Asian American to foreman positions! As individuals, they were not happy. They were capable and satisfied with their accustomed jobs and did not seek promotion. The fact that their expertise was in other types of roof installations was moot. The contract required that we file monthly EEO reports to comply with government requirements; how many women, how many Asians, Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, etc.?
Public Housing Authorities wanted us to provide names and home phone numbers of all the workers on those projects, supposedly to see if they were really being paid union wages. Many workers DID NOT want the government contacting them at home. Too bad! One DHS-related project required we provide the Full Name and personal cell phone numbers of everyone on the crew! The guys were not happy about that either.
It’s a dirty system when ethnicity counts more than the abilities and desires of individuals and the government demands personal information for specious reasons. Oh well, it’s all over now.