Q: I am trying to decide whether I should file a discrimination charge against my employer. For the past year, I have had a temporary job as a counselor with an employee assistance program. When a permanent position became available, my supervisor encouraged me to apply, praising my counseling skills and positive client evaluations.
Although several qualified people, including myself, applied for the job, management hired a gentleman whose professional license has been "indefinitely suspended," according to government records. I believe he was selected because he has the same ethnic background as my boss' boss, who has a reputation for hiring people of her own race.
I am truly not a prejudiced person, but I am appalled that an unqualified therapist will be delivering counseling services. My friends say I should take legal action, but I'm not sure.
A: While your friends are undoubtedly well-meaning, encouraging someone else to file a discrimination charge is much easier than doing so yourself. This is a big decision, so you are wise to consider it carefully.
First, let's take a moment to appreciate that we live in a country where many forms of bias are prohibited and where a process exists for pursuing your legal rights. Our laws against employment discrimination have unquestionably created a fairer and more just workplace.
At the same time, however, taking legal action against your employer is not without risk. By definition, you will become an adversary to management, since the company will have to defend itself against your charges. Although retaliation is prohibited, you could still find yourself in a vulnerable position.
If you choose to proceed, you should do so with your eyes wide open. Talking with a specialist at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission can help you learn about the charge process and assess the strength of your case. That might help you decide whether filing a claim would be to your benefit.
Finally, keep in mind that there are actually two separate issues here. Regardless of whether discrimination occurred, employing an unqualified therapist is a serious matter which should certainly be investigated.
Change approach to land HR interview
Q: I would like to know why the human resources profession discriminates against men. Based on my observations, most HR departments are 90 percent female. Despite having a master's degree and eight years of experience, I can't seem to get an interview for an HR management position. Why can't men get ahead in this field?
A: One obvious cause of the gender imbalance is simply that more women choose human resources as a career. Last year, for example, women made up 66 percent of the graduates of academic HR programs. Then again, this number also indicates that men still continue to enter the profession. And although some CEOs might prefer female HR executives, men actually do hold many of the top positions.
While your frustration is certainly understandable, fretting about possible discrimination will not help you land a management position. Because rejection is hard to take, job seekers frequently attribute their lack of success to external causes. Unfortunately, however, this rationalization can prevent them from correcting flaws in their approach.
In your case, since you are not getting interviews, odds are that you need to create a more attention-getting resume. Should your assumptions about gender preference happen to be correct, you must make a special effort to shine in order to stand out from the pack.