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Workplace discrimination a top priority for university

With the start of the new semester, many students are taking advantage of job opportunities and internships through Career Services.

A possible issue these students may face is workplace discrimination. Workplace discrimination entails discrimination in hiring, promotions, job assignments, termination and compensation based on a person’s race, color, gender, religious affiliations, age, disability genetic information, and based on pregnancy. Federal law protects individuals in all of these categories.

According to Career Services Director Maxine Sugarman, workplace discrimination reports are very rare.

“Reports of workplace discrimination are very rare because we get involved with speaking and communicating with employers who come to hire students for internships and jobs,” said Sugarman.

Career Services is also very careful about the internships and jobs that their students are placed in.“We do not put our students in work from home or other untraditional work settings,” said Sugarman. “The position must be in a bonafide office setting.”

According to Hilda Adeniji, Marketing Coordinator and recent graduate, Career Services is well equipped to deal with this serious issue.

“We encourage students to come in and report any problems they have,” said Adeniji. “We can step in and we have the necessary tools to fix the situation or remove the student from the situation and report that company if there really is any illegal practices [sic].”

According to Adeniji, counseling and Human Resources would also step in if a problem were to occur.

“The counselor that is notified would most likely try to figure out what the exact situation is and probably contact Human Resources to see what the students’ rights are and try to fix the situation immediately,” said Adeniji. “If that requires them to take the student out of that position until it’s solved, then that is something that needs to be done because the student’s safety is more important than the current position they are in.”

In addition to Human Resources, Career Services would also go to the Legal Counsel Department to help solve any issues that may arise. “We absolutely encourage students to come forward and tell us how they feel they are being discriminated against,” said Sugarman. “We would always go to legal counsel and ask them how they’d handle it.”

Adeniji’s advice for students who are going through this situation is to know what their rights are. “The main thing is that students need to know their rights,” said Adeniji. “Even if you’re interning, you still have rights as a person and students need to know exactly what their roles are so that they are not discriminated against.”

Sugarman agreed that students must know their rights.

Adeniji also recommended that students speak up if they are having a problem.

“Don’t be afraid to speak up and handle things professionally so that the situation does not come back to bite you later,” said Adeniji. “If a student is unsure if something is wrong, I would recommend that they come here and talk to a career counselor, let them know what the whole situation is and they can assess for you if the situation is wrong, because they have a lot of experience.”

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) the amount of workplace discrimination charges hit a high of 99,922 during the fiscal year of 2010.

“Wow, that’s a staggering number,” said Sugarman. “It’s concerning…to think that there’s that amount of discrimination in the workplace.”

While Adeniji also thinks this number is very high, she also believes that it’s a good sign.

“That number is a good number because that means that people are actually reporting what’s going on , whereas I feel like in the past people were keeping their mouths shut and not knowing what their rights are and not speaking up,” said Adeniji.

“Now that people are more encouraged to speak up, that number doesn’t mean that the discrimination went up, it means people are not taking it as much as they were before.”

Adeniji felt that workplace discrimination was not as severe as it once was due to the fact that it is no longer kept a secret.

“Everybody does internships and has jobs while they’re in school, so everyone talks to each other and they can compare their experiences with other people’s experiences, so the moment something is wrong most people would get on Twitter and complain,” said Adeniji. “So I feel like most companies should know better, especially with this generation where instantly one can let everyone know what’s going on.”

According to the EEOC, the categories which had the largest discrimination claims in 2012 were retaliation (37 percent), race (35 percent), sex/gender (28 percent), and disability (25.8 percent).

Adeniji was not surprised that the highest number of discrimination claims were related to retaliation.

“That’s the most common way people are discriminated against,” said Adeniji. “I feel that when you do have a problem or something happens a lot of people don’t know how to react, and when retaliation occurs back and forth, office conflict arises and that probably is where all these problems do arise.”

Adeniji’s personal experience as a student with Career Sercies as a student was very positive and productive.

“I feel that along all my years they’ve been completely supportive,” said Adeniji. “I was not initially looking for a job or internship, but I saw that there were so many things I didn’t know that they could help me with.”

Adeniji especially noted the help of her counselor.

“My counselor at the time was really supportive and she helped me with everything and she always knew the kind of things I liked, so when good opportunities came along she was always the first person to send things to me that I probably would have never found by myself,” said Adeniji.

Sugarman noted that the counselor—to—student relationship is crucial for students to be able to report an incident of workplace discrimination.

“The relationship between the counselor and the student comes into play where the student feels comfortable enough to come to the counselor and report any issues they have,” said Sugarman.

Adeniji also enjoyed the relationship that Career Services has with its employers.

“This office is so in tune with the employers,” said Adeniji. “They’re actually bringing in and have great relationships with the employers that love Pace students, and come back again and again to hire Pace students and I think that’s what makes this office so great.”

The university is currently ranked ninth in the U.S. World and Report for internship and co-op placement.

The Career Services department offers undergraduates, graduate students and alumni many opportunities to explore their fields, gain employment opportunities and gain hands on knowledge of the job market through various workshops, seminars, practice interviews, individual counseling and career fairs.

Career Services can also help students choose a major, define their career goals, create and update a résumé, and develop a job search strategy. The department also offers campus recruiting programs for graduate students.