- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 9, 2004

Over the last several months, the Center for Equal Opportunity has written letters to sponsors of a wide variety of “minority job fairs.” These have included universities, law schools, school districts, bar associations, trade associations, employment agencies, private law firms, corporations and various combinations of the above.

Job fairs typically bring together prospective employers in a particular profession or industry with prospective employees who are interested in that field.

In our letters, we have noted that excluding individuals on the basis of race or ethnicity from employment-related opportunities like job fairs violates a number of civil rights laws, including: Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (for recipients of federal money, which include nearly all universities, law schools and school districts), Title VII (for private and government employers and those acting as employment agencies, which is defined broadly enough by the statute to include placement offices and anyone else who sponsors a job fair), and the U.S. Constitution (for government actors, including public schools, colleges and universities). We also point out it is illegal to advertise a preference for employees of a particular skin color or national origin.

We conclude by asking that the job fair be made open to all individuals or that we will file a complaint with the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, which have enforcement responsibility for Title VI, Title VII and the Constitution, respectively.

The responses we have received have been very similar — indeed, nearly identical. We are told that while the event may be labeled a “minority job fair,” it is in fact open to everyone.

And so we are writing back, saying we are delighted to hear this but won’t be satisfied unless the job fair is labeled and publicized as open to all. After all, we point out, if a company had a sign out front that said, “No Irish need apply,” it would be no justification for the company to say that, in fact, it would consider an Irish applicant, if only one were willing to ignore the sign and come in looking for work.

We suggest, why not call it a “Multiracial Job Fair” instead? That would send the message the job fair aims to cast a wide net, and that minorities were obviously welcome, but without signaling nonminorities were unwelcome.

We haven’t yet heard back on our suggestion. But it’s hard to imagine why, if a job fair really is intended to be open to everyone regardless of race or ethnicity, the sponsor would insist on obscuring the fact.

Meanwhile, our advice to job-seekers is to ignore the word “minority” in “minority job fair.” If the event interests a prospective applicant, he or she should go, no matter his or her skin color or ethnicity. There’s no need for embarrassment. The people who should be embarrassed are the ones violating the civil rights laws.

And if someone is turned away at the door, on the grounds the person is the “wrong” color, we would love to hear about it.

ROGER CLEGG

Mr. Clegg is general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity in Sterling, Va.

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