On last Sunday’s episode of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, Chalky White, a jailed African-American bootlegger, comforted his wife with the following information about his attorney: “He a Hebrew gentleman.” Lest you think that such observations were left in the 1920s, I once had a client I was defending in a race harassment case refer to me as his “Jew lawyer.”
I relay these tales (both real and fictional) because of a story on Businessweek.com about a national origin discrimination case recently filed by the EEOC against a Colorado hotel. The lawsuit claims that hotel ownership directed management “to hire more qualified maids, and that they preferred maids to be Hispanic because in their opinion Hispanics worked harder.” The lawsuit further claims that management told one of the fired employees that ownership did not want to employee American or Caucasian workers “because it was their impression that such workers are lazy.”
There is no hiding that stereotypes—both positive and negative— exist. To some degree we all harbor them (and anyone who tells you differently is full of it). The better job you do of insulating your personnel decisions from these stereotypes, the less often you will find yourself in need of my services—which is a positive stereotype you can embrace.