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A while ago while visiting relatives and friends in another state, a young man talked about his experience in his last place of employment. He said he had been discharged easily because he was still on preliminary probation. As he pointed out and many people know, companies can often get rid of employees fairly easily when employees are on preliminary probation.

Anyway, this young man said that his supervisors/managers were conspiring to get rid of older workers and wanted him to join in their conspiracy. The conspiracy included harassing older workers until they quit, or lying about their attitude and productivity to justify firing them. This young man had several older workers under him in his department. He refused to join in the conspiracy, even though he knew at the time that he was putting his own job on the line. He lost his job but not his integrity. Mistreating older workers would never do. Good for him.

Several months ago, a friend with whom I don’t communicate very often (whom I shall call Michael) told me that he had a suit against a company at which he had been employed. He told me his suit was based on racial discrimination.

During the legal procedures, Michael said the company tried to label him as a “serial complainant” and have his suit dismissed as frivolous because he had filed complaints against and sued other companies at which he had worked. This would never do. His suit had merit and was not dismissed.

I was telling another friend about this attempt to label Michael a serial complainant, and she said, “So…was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. a serial complainant?” “Wow,” I said, “What a good point! I can’t wait to tell [Michael] what you said. Thank you.”

My friend went on to talk about how companies have “a million ways” to make complainants feel that they’re not supposed to speak out against harassment or discrimination; that agencies that are supposed to investigate charges of discrimination frequently dismiss complaints made by persons labeled as “serial complainants.” So … where is it written that a person will face only one act of discrimination during his/her lifetime?

Dr. Martin Luther King and others spoke and marched against discrimination many, many times. Thank goodness, they knew that addressing discrimination once would never do.

Peggy Tarr

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...