PEF starts program series to educate members about discrimination
By SHERRY HALBROOK
When members tell PEF they have problems at work, the union looks for ways to help them. That’s why PEF held a special program titled “Employment Discrimination 101” for members, which was held at its New York City office November 7.
“This was the first program on this topic, and we are planning to hold three more at various locations throughout the state in 2019,” said PEF Vice President Sharon V. DeSilva. “I am already working on plans for the second program, which will be held in Albany early in the year.”
DeSilva said PEF President Wayne Spence and his staff often hear from members about many kinds of discrimination and retaliation they are experiencing at their jobs. So the PEF leaders decided to start educating members about the issue and how to deal with it.
“Discrimination is an important issue and we need to have conversations about it,” DeSilva said. “It’s not just racial discrimination, it can be based on age, gender, disability, or other categories. Discrimination can be a form of retaliation for union activism.”
DeSilva said workplace discrimination can also be linked to sexual harassment.
The program PEF is presenting is intended to help members understand the laws regarding workplace discrimination and how to identify the behaviors and situations that meet that legal definition.
“We want members to know how to identify illegal discrimination and retaliation, and we want them to know how to document it,” DeSilva said. ”It can be very difficult to prove, so it’s important to gather evidence. You can keep a daily log of incidents, keep copies of related documents such as job postings, hirings and promotions, policies, letters, memos and emails.”
DeSilva said testimony from witnesses is very important. “If a witness is retiring, try to get a signed affidavit from them or a video or audio record of them stating what happened.”
The program presented in November featured a panel of speakers including Spence and: retired law enforcement officer and consultant Eric Josey; the Rev. Craig J. Wright, chief diversity officer for Nassau Community College; and PEF Division 329 Council Leader Bellew McManus who is a senior attorney at the state Division of Human Rights.
“You’ve told us you are suffering unfair treatment,” Spence said, “and we want to arm you with the knowledge, facts and tools you need to defend yourself. So, watch the PEF website, Facebook and other social media for announcements of these programs as we bring them to you.”