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discrimination, numerous findings have shown that African American
workers are less likely to be hired and more likely to be the first fired
than white Americans with the same qualifications.
The continued prevalence of traditional gender role bias and ethnic
prejudice may partially account for the high cost of discrimination during
economic downturns. In 2005, median income levels were highest among
Asian and white males and lowest among females of all races, especially
those identifying as African American or Hispanic. Despite closing gender
and racial gaps, considerable discrepancies remain or have increased
among some of the racial and gender demographics during the recent
economic downturn.
Bennet, Martin, Bies, and Brockner (1995) described how downsiz-
ing, layoffs, re-engineering, reduction in workforce, mergers, early retire-
ment, and outplacement can create future job uncertainty. Fine (1996)
indicated that individuals who are required to accept conditions as they
are, can sometimes be denied the opportunity to express their true ability
in the workplace and may experience ambivalence. When workers are
forced to repress important aspects of their ability, it can create further
lack of confidence about being successful in the workplace. This also sug-
gests that people who spend significant amounts of energy coping in an
ambiguous discriminatory environment, have less energy left to do their
best work. Ambiguity not only creates uncertainty and the likelihood of
failure for employees who are different, but also decreases the productivity
of the total organization.
Most people depend on employment income to provide for the neces-
sities of life and to sustain their standard of living ( Vinocur et al., 1991 ).
The mean duration of unemployment, in the United States for example,
varies between 16 and 20 weeks, with a median between 8 and 10 weeks
reported by the US Department of Labor (USDOL) in 1995. The dura-
tion of unemployment has been significantly higher during the recent eco-
nomic downturn. Nearly 11% of unemployed persons had been looking
for work for about 2 years or more in the fourth quarter of 2010. Due to
this increase, in 2011 the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the Census
Bureau updated to 5 years the duration for which unemployment benefits
are payable. Costs associated with unemployment would most likely persist
for all workers after unemployment benefits are exhausted. Unemployed
workers who also experience discrimination are at risk of facing even
greater financial and social cost during an economic downturn. That crisis
could play itself out in a serious cascade of stressful events that may include
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