One of our employees objected to the use of the term "African American." We don't want to offend anyone, but I did not realize this term was problematic. Has anyone else dealt with this?
I hadn't heard of this either. Did the employee specify which term he/she preferred instead of African American?
Unless there is a business reason to be talking about race or describing an employee by race, I don't really see the need for anyone's race to be stated verbally. Do you normally label other employees by their race?
Could it possibly be that the employee is saying that vs the actual words? That is, he is being described by his race rather than his position, name, etc and would rather not be? Something to think about anyway.
I read a non-HR forum and we had an interesting discussion on how races in the US are more and more mixed and honestly, you can't make assumptions based on a person's looks. Yes, you can ask them to self-identity for data collection, but other than that, I would stay as far away as you can. And so should any leadership in your company. You can lead by example.
Unless there is a business reason to be talking about race or describing an employee by race, I don't really see the need for anyone's race to be stated verbally.
I look Asian (but I'm not) and I'm constantly asked my ethnicity by co-workers. Old-school term is "Oriental" and I cringe when referred to as an Oriental. I completely agree that unless there's a business reason, there really isn't a need to have one's race stated verbally!
On the voluntary EEO applicant self-identification form, the one I have says Black or African-American. I have also heard it referred to as African-American when discussing court cases. I have personally referred to a person as being black when trying to identify an employee who came to visit my office when I was out and I would have said white if the person had been white, being this is from a department with white, black and hispanic. I would have used any of these terms when trying to find out the employee's name. Because of the EEO form, I can't imagine it being a problem, but typically most of my employees do say "Black" in lieu of "African-American." With that being said, I have also had a black supervisor say "African-American" when referring to another black employee, so I have not experienced it being a "no-no."