‘You can’t choose to walk away’: Black women detail their experiences with racism in the workplace

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B. Zawde is an avid martial arts athlete. But if a member of her jiu jitsu club were to say or do something racist, she would leave.

That hypothetical decision is one that distinguishes the spaces where Zawde and other Americans pursue their hobbies or purchase goods and services from another place where many spend a significant portion of their time: at work.

According to a survey by Essence magazine released last month, 45% of Black women say the place they most often experience racism in their lives is, in fact, the workplace. An environment where people congregate not quite by choice or interest, where everyone faces pressure over their livelihoods and career ambitions, and where people from different backgrounds wind up working closely together is ripe for conflict—including racism.

Zawde, a 39-year-old member of the finance industry raised in the U.K., was one of several Black women to speak to Fortune about what makes the workplace such common stage for racist behavior (she asked to be identified by a first initial over concerns about possible retaliation). Her experiences include being passed over for promotions in favor of less experienced co-workers and having to start over at a new firm every few years as the only way to get ahead. “Repeatedly, once I get my foot in the door, I’m eight steps back,” says Zawde.

Thokozile Kapichande, a marketing and communications professional in her mid-40s, has had a similar experience throughout her career. “I definitely think I’ve missed out on opportunities to be nurtured in my career,” she says. Past bosses and managers couldn’t see their younger selves in her—blocking her from mentorship opportunities, she says. “If I were to go to a store or a restaurant and experience something that’s racist, I can choose to walk away,” she says. “The workplace is tied to your livelihood. You have to go there every day. You can’t choose to constantly walk away.”

Azizza Brinson, a 30-year-old public relations professional, often encounters microaggressions—or racist interactions that occur on an individual, rather than systemic, level—at work, like colleagues expecting her to know everything about all kinds of Black culture. Brinson and Kapichande both experienced another category of microaggressions: white co-workers whose treatment of their Black colleagues depended on either party’s romantic relationships. In Brinson’s case, co-workers often told her they were dating a Black person, she says. Kapichande says her white co-workers often spent more time getting to know her once they found out her husband is white—leading her to hide that fact from her colleagues, putting away family photos to ensure colleagues developed “authentic relationships” based on her.

Brinson says she eventually started to realize why her white co-workers kept subjecting her to these microaggressions: “Oh, you have only come into contact with so many Black people,” she remembers realizing. “You start to learn how they grew up.” For many of those co-workers, the workplace was the only place where they had “in-depth interactions with Black people,” she says.

As the term implies, microaggressions might at first seem limited in scope, but in reality they often have larger consequences. Ashley Bankhead, 28, was working as an account manager in D.C. when a member of her company’s leadership team approached her and grabbed her hair, which was on top of her head in a puff. She told her manager about the incident; afterwards, the company leader who had violated that personal boundary “avoided [her] like the plague”—an outcome that could have hurt Bankhead’s progression at the organization.

“If I’m at a store and it’s a stranger [who touches my hair], they may literally not know better,” Bankhead says. “They may not have grown up around Black people and feel they’re curious. In a professional setting, that’s highly inappropriate. And if you’re in leadership—there are a lot of layers there.”

“Racism has prematurely ended a lot of careers,” says Minda Harts, author of The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table. “A good day for me [in my former career] was when I’d only be racially aggressed once throughout my day.” Racism is a form of workplace harassment, Harts says, and should be handled like any other.

The dearth of Black people in leadership roles like the one held by Bankhead’s colleague isn’t just an issue of diversity as a moral good, but sends employees a tangible message: “the chances of me being promoted into leadership here are low,” Bankhead says she realized.

Racquel Joseph, a 30-year-old employee in the tech industry, found out she was earning less than a new hire who she was managing; three weeks after she was promoted to match that person’s salary, she and her entire department were laid off.

“When I saw that gap, I realized how much my family and I were missing out on. Not only was I born into a family disadvantaged by a huge generational wealth gap,” she says. “But at the end of the day it doesn’t matter if I do everything right—this system was not built for me. You’re working within a racist system.”

The only other part of American life, Joseph notes, where racism has as much power over Black people’s lives? Policing and the criminal justice system—the focus of recent protests against racial injustice.

And just as protesters have made demands of their political leaders and of law enforcement, employees are increasingly making demands that their employers address issues of racism at work. Over the past month, companies have stated new financial commitments to racial justice causes, to hiring and promoting more Black workers, and to using their influence to create racial justice in society at large.

For Black workers who experience racism most often in the workplace, this corporate response may be new (and its longevity and effectiveness is yet to be determined)—but the problems it aims to address are anything but. “I didn’t wake up one day and say, oh crap, I’m Black. I have to worry about what I say and do in front of white people,” Joseph says. “This is something I’ve known since I was born.”

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Starbucks Reverses Course And Allows Employees To Wear Black Lives Matter Attire

Starbucks has reversed its policy banning employees from wearing Black Lives Matter accessories amid growing public backlash.

“Starbucks stands in solidarity with our Black partners, community and customers, and understand the desire to express themselves,” the company said in a statement Friday. “As our latest step towards this commitment, we are partnering with the Starbucks Black Partner Network and Black Starbucks leaders to make 250,000 shirts available to our company-operated partners in U.S. and Canada to affirm our support at this critical time in our history.”

The reversal comes after BuzzFeed News reported that Starbucks employees had voiced their concerns about the policy, in which the company stated Black Lives Matter attire violated its ban on wearing any type of political, religious, or personal accessories or clothing. However, many employees pointed out that Starbucks not only exempts buttons and attire celebrating LGBTQ rights and marriage equality from this policy, but also hands them out.

Amid calls for a boycott, the company on Friday tweeted that BLM T-shirts would be made available to employees, and that until they are available, workers could wear their own BLM-related attire to work.

“Until these arrive, we’ve heard you want to show your support, so just be you. Wear your BLM pin or T-shirt,” one of the company’s Twitter accounts posted. “We trust you to do what’s right while never forgetting Starbucks is a welcoming third place where all are treated with dignity and respect.”

A spokesperson for Starbucks told BuzzFeed News that the policy around wearing personal BLM merchandise was tentatively temporary until the company-designed T-shirts could be distributed to employees.

“Until these shirts arrive in stores, partners will be able to wear their BLM pin or T-shirt in passionate support of their community and humanity,” the company said in a statement.

Albert Samaha contributed to reporting.

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The U.S. Constitution needs an overhaul, and California can help

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Gerald Bostock Reacts To Landmark Supreme Court Ruling On Workplace Rights Ruling

“I don’t regret one decision,” said Gerald Bostock, the lead plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court ruling banning workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual identity.

Posted on June 15, 2020, at 9:08 p.m. ET

Lawrence Hurley / Reuters

Gerald Bostock outside his home in Atlanta, Sept. 9, 2019.

Of the three plaintiffs who secured a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court on Monday that bans workplace discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation, only one is alive to see the victory.

“I certainly don’t regret joining that gay softball league,” Gerald Bostock, 56, told BuzzFeed News.

In 2013, Bostock lost his job in the child welfare services department for Clayton County, Georgia, after he joined the Hotlanta Softball League.

For seven years, he’s fought against that discrimination, all the way to the highest court in the land.

Now a healthcare worker at an Atlanta hospital, Bostock was in his regular Monday morning conference call with colleagues when he heard a television news presenter say a Supreme Court decision had been made in Bostock v. Clayton Co.

“My heart stopped,” he said. “I promptly came off the work call and focused all of my attention on the TV screen.”

At first, the SCOTUSblog was crashing, and the decision was unclear. But then someone posted part of the first page of the decision.

“Held: An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII,” it stated.

“When I read those very first words on the first page, I was with — and still am with — my partner. We embraced and looked at each other and said, ‘We did this,'” Bostock said.

“There may have been a scream or two,” he continued. “It just screams justice for all.”

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Joseph Fons carries a pride flag in front of the Supreme Court.

In a 6–3 decision on Monday, the court held that a federal law prohibiting workplace discrimination based on “sex” — Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — applied to cases involving LGBTQ workers.

The other lead plaintiffs in the case, argued by the ACLU, did not live to see the ruling. Donald Zarda, who lost his skydiving job in 2010 after telling a customer he was gay, died in a BASE jumping accident in 2014. Aimee Stephens, a trans woman who fought against losing her job in 2013 when she started wearing women’s clothes, died in May.

“I’m saddened they are not here with us to experience this joy and their victory,” Bostock said.

The victory has been hard-fought, he added, describing the last seven years of his life as “difficult” and “exhausting.”

He lost his income and his medical insurance — at the time he was fired, he was undergoing treatment for prostate cancer — and sold his home and moved away.

“I lost friends,” he continued. “I lost colleagues I worked side by side with for many many years.”

He rebuilt his life, but mounting a historic legal challenge is not for the faint of heart.

“I’m in debt from a result of it,” Bostock said. “My health was challenged because of it. The stress alone prolonged my prostate cancer.”

But the losses have been worth it, he added.

“I will tell you this: I don’t regret one decision,” he said. “It’s been quite the road, but one that had to be taken. I was willing to stand up and carry this as far as it had to go.”

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, a Trump appointee, wrote the majority ruling. Bostock said he’d predicted the justices would rule in favor 6–3, and that Gorsuch would support him. “I’m not surprised at all,” he said.

His attorney, Tom Mew, said the argument they advanced was specifically regarding the “the plain language of the statute and its treatment in case law by the Supreme Court,” and they had suspected Gorsuch, who has a conservative legal decision–making approach known as textualism, rooted in the text of the law, would support them.

Saul Loeb / Getty Images

Gerald Bostock speaks at an LGBTQ rights rally outside the Supreme Court, Oct. 8, 2019.

“Those were our feelings and our instincts. It is very nice to see that in print today,” Mew said.

Monday’s ruling has monumental significance to LGBTQ people living in states that did not previously have workplace discrimination laws based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“I hope they are not going to have to go to work fearful of who they are, who they love, and how do they identify,” Bostock said.

The recent Black Lives Matter protests and uprisings over racial injustice and police brutality of Black people highlight just how important it is to fight against inequality in all its forms, he said.

“During these dark days in the last few days and last few weeks, this victory might shine through a little bit of sunshine and hope,” Bostock said. “The current events certainly underscore the work that needs to be done.”

And while lots of people posted funny memes on Monday about LGBTQ people now embracing gay stereotypes at work, knowing they can’t be fired for their sexuality, Bostock wasn’t laughing.

“I don’t find a whole lot of humor in my experience,” he told BuzzFeed News. “This is a horrible thing that has happened to so many of us in this country.”

Now Bostock has his eyes on helping to push the Equality Act through Congress and pass a hate crime act in Georgia.

“I think the opinion this morning has laid some of that groundwork and assured the steps for ensuring equality for all,” he said. “There is no place in this world for discrimination.”

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Facebook Boycott Organizers Want a Civil Rights Expert in the Company’s Executive Suite

Facebook Inc.

leaders including Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg are set to meet early next week with civil rights groups that called for an advertising boycott against the company over its handling of hate speech and misinformation.

Among the top requests from the groups will be for Facebook to hire an executive with civil rights expertise for a post in the social-media giant’s C-suite.

“If they have civil rights leadership that’s experienced in the C-suite, it will keep the company accountable on those issues,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, one of the organizers of the boycott.

Leaders of civil rights groups are meeting with Facebook executives after calling for an ad boycott of the platform for the month of July. Facebook, which has been under growing pressure to change and update some of its content and brand-safety policies, this week requested a new meeting with civil rights leaders, including Mr. Greenblatt, Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change, and Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP.

Rashad Robinson, the president of Color of Change.


Bill Clark/Zuma Press

“We share the goal of these organizations; we don’t benefit from hate and we don’t want it on our platforms,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement. “We look forward to hearing directly from these organizations and sharing an update on the investments we’ve made and the work we’re continuing to do.”

The civil rights leaders want Facebook to make meaningful changes and be more accountable at the top echelons of its leadership structure. Facebook executives, such as Joel Kaplan, the company’s vice president of global public policy, play a role in content decisions. But they have a conflict of interest because they also are looking to curry favor with politicians who may have their own opinions about content on Facebook, said Mr. Robinson.

“There needs to be a separation between content security and safety, and the people who lobby with politicians,” Mr. Robinson said.

Facebook’s work in this area includes embedding civil rights expertise on teams across policy and product, the company said.

The ad boycott is just one of many pressures confronting Facebook, which also has been under fire from many employees, activists and Democrats who say it has failed to enforce its rules against politicians, including President Donald Trump. Several employees have disagreed publicly with Facebook’s stances on a variety of issues, including its recent decision to leave up a post by Mr. Trump that many academics and employees say violated the company’s rules about inciting violence.

Some employees say some of these missteps stem from the lack of diversity at the top of the company. Thursday, a Black Facebook employee and two job candidates filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission saying Facebook is biased against Black employees and makes it more difficult for them to get hired and promoted. Among other issues, the employee said he heard the N-word said at work.

“We believe it is essential to provide all employees with a respectful and safe working environment. We take any allegations of discrimination seriously and investigate every case,” a Facebook spokesman said in a statement.

The civil-rights groups have listed 10 steps they would like Facebook to take, and say each one is important. But Mr. Greenblatt said another priority among them is for regular, outside audits of identity-based hate speech and misinformation on the company’s platforms, with the results made available publicly.

Whether Facebook will agree to any of the groups’ specific recommendations is far from certain. Facebook executives, including Carolyn Everson, vice president of its Global Business Group, previously told advertisers that the company wouldn’t change its policies based on revenue pressure.

Mr. Greenblatt said the boycott wasn’t about making a dent in Facebook’s ad revenue, which totaled $69.7 billion last year, mostly from small and medium-size companies. The goal is to get the company’s attention and encourage change, he said.

Advertisers that have paused spending on Facebook and Instagram include

Unilever PLC,

Clorox Co.,

Starbucks Corp.,

Ford Motor Co.,

Microsoft Corp.,

Coca-Cola Co.,

Levi Strauss & Co.


Verizon Communications Inc.

But not every one of them is a member of the boycott campaign, and may have different priorities.

Some of the boycott organizers’ recommendations speak more directly to advertising concerns, including broadening Facebook’s brand-safety tools and providing more refunds when ads appear next to objectionable content.

Facebook issues refunds when ads run in videos and some other content formats that violate its policies, but the policy doesn’t include ads that run next to Facebook’s main news feed, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Other steps requested of Facebook by the boycott organizers include the creation of an internal system to automatically flag hateful content in private groups for human review, and the finding and removing of public and private groups focused on white supremacy, violent conspiracies, vaccine misinformation and other objectionable content.

Facebook addressed some of the groups’ requests in a blog post on Wednesday, describing some of the steps it has taken and its plans for countering hate speech and misinformation, as well as for ensuring a safer environment for advertisers. The company said it already generates reports on suspected hate speech and funnels them to reviewers with training in identity-based hate policies in 50 markets and 30 languages.

It also said it is exploring ways to make users who moderate groups on Facebook more accountable for the content in those groups.

On Tuesday, Facebook also classified a large segment of the boogaloo movement as a dangerous organization and banned it from its network for “actively promoting violence against civilians, law enforcement and government officials and institutions.”

Civil rights leaders said they had notified Facebook earlier about the presence of this movement on its platforms.

“Facebook had a knowledge of the growing boogaloo presence on their site and they did nothing about it,” said Mr. Johnson of the NAACP. “What must happen is a change in their algorithm so those white supremacists and hate groups are not directed at their targeted audiences.”

Facebook said it has removed boogaloo content when it has identified a clear call for violence, including pulling more than 800 posts in the last two months.

Earlier this week, Facebook announced it would include the prevalence of hate speech as a data point in its Community Standards Enforcement Report, through which the platform shares updates on its progress combating content that violates its policies. The reports are assembled and issued by Facebook, which said it would now release those reports quarterly.

Mr. Zuckerberg previously said Facebook would look to open its content moderation systems for external audit. The company also agreed to a new outside audit by the Media Rating Council, the ad industry’s measurement watchdog, which will evaluate Facebook’s content monetization and brand-safety tools and practices.

Facebook has said that 90% of the hate speech it removes is found by its artificial-intelligence tools before users report it.

Mr. Robinson, the Color of Change president, said that doesn’t account for possible hate-speech that goes undetected.

Write to Sahil Patel at

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

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Airbnb cracks down on customers booking homes for parties

Airbnb will ban some younger U.S. guests from booking homes in their area as part of a continuing effort to crack down on unauthorized parties.

The San Francisco-based home sharing company said U.S. guests under age 25 with fewer than three positive Airbnb reviews won’t be allowed to book entire homes close to where they live. Airbnb wouldn’t reveal how it defines what is “close.”

Those guests will still be allowed to book entire homes elsewhere, and they will be allowed to book hotel rooms or private rooms within homes, the company said.

Guests under 25 with at least three positive Airbnb reviews and no negative reviews won’t be subject to the restrictions.

Airbnb began stepping up efforts to ban “party houses” last November after five people were shot and killed during an unauthorized party at an Airbnb rental in Orinda, California. At the time, Airbnb set up a rapid response team to deal with complaints from neighbors and started screening “high risk” bookings, such as reservations at a large home for one night.

Earlier this year, Airbnb piloted its new policy for younger guests in Canada. The company said the policy has led to a “meaningful drop” in unauthorized house parties.

In a message to hosts, the company said reducing unauthorized parties is even more of a priority right now as states try to avoid coronavirus outbreaks.

“With public health mandates in place throughout the country, we’re taking actions to support safe and responsible travel in the United States,” the company said.

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Trump Administration To Cut Work Permits For Asylum-Seekers Who Enter The US Without Authorization

The Trump administration plans to soon announce a policy that will deny work permits for asylum-seekers who cross into the US without authorization, according to two sources with knowledge of the matter.

The policy, which was first reported by BuzzFeed News in August, will make asylum-seekers who do not cross into the country at a port of entry ineligible for a work permit in most cases. It will also delay the time it takes for those who apply for asylum — either while already in the US or after crossing the border and referred to immigration court — to become qualified to get a work permit, from 150 days to 365 days.

Asylum-seekers who do not file for protections within one year of arriving in the US will also be denied a permit.

The administration released an initial version of the policy in November and waited for public comments. Now it will be included in a final rule, which generally takes effect two months after publishing.

It was not immediately clear exactly when the announcement would occur, but the change will join a long line of efforts to dissuade asylum-seekers from coming to the southern border. Last week, the Department of Homeland Security issued a separate proposal that would make it more difficult for immigrants to obtain asylum altogether.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, DHS officials have turned away thousands of immigrants, including asylum-seekers, at the southern border by using a March order issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that bars entry to those who attempt to cross into the US without authorization.

In 2019, President Donald Trump signed a memo directing US Citizenship and Immigration Services to draft proposals that would limit work permits for asylum-seekers who crossed the border without authorization. The proposed regulation is believed to have been pushed aggressively by White House officials.

Immigrant advocates said the policy would force asylum-seekers to go into the shadows.

“The Trump administration is moving to deny work authorization to nearly every asylum-seeker just days after proposing a separate rule that would result in near-universal asylum denials,” said Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, a policy analyst at the American Immigration Council. “As we said when the rule was first proposed, the new change will leave asylum-seekers begging for food and shelter, with no ability to legally work during the years-long process of seeking protection.”

Instead, he said, the new rule will force tens of thousands of people to rely on charity or work off the books just to put food on the table.

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The best stocks of 2020 so far have made investors much richer through the coronavirus pandemic

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Economic Effects Of The Pandemic On 9 People, Explained

Ben Kothe / BuzzFeed News; Getty Images

The economic devastation wrought by the pandemic continues, even amid recent signs of a modest economic uptick. As my former colleague Tom Gara notes, since April the United States has actually seen a large increase in household income and savings as an unprecedented number of people are receiving stimulus and unemployment benefits from the government. Unfortunately, “the massive interventions that made all this possible will soon come to an end — but the unemployment won’t.”

Last month, BuzzFeed News asked readers to share how their finances have fared during the recession so far. More than 200 people responded. Here are nine of their stories. Responses have been edited for clarity; pseudonyms have been used for some responses.

Manny, 31, California

Employment status: Full-time heavy equipment mechanic
Annual salary before the pandemic: $100,000
Current income: $40,000–$50,000

Monthly housing costs: $2,500 in rent

Debt: about $15,000 in total

Groceries (monthly): $600

Utilities: $200

Entertainment: $60

Are you spending more or less right now? Less

Biggest financial concern right now: I am a heavy equipment diesel mechanic, so a lot of the construction sites got shut down. I had my hours cut and we scaled back a lot. Since I didn’t qualify for a stimulus check, I couldn’t really have that to fall back on, so we started dipping into savings to pay some bills and the unexpected expenses that come with having a new baby on the way.

Natalie, 38, Arkansas

Employment status: Self-employed acupuncturist
Annual salary before the pandemic: Around $10,000/month in 2019
Current income: Income was just under $1,000 in March, but bumped up to $3,000 in April and $4,000 in May due to successful internet sales of hemp CBD. Unfortunately, this month I had to stop selling CBD because the online payment processor I use threatened to ban my account, so income this month will likely be similar to March.
Monthly housing costs: I own my house, so no payments.
Debt: None
Groceries (monthly): $1,000
Utilities: $70
Entertainment (Netflix/Spotify): None
Are you spending more or less right now? Less

Biggest financial concern right now: I switched from in-person patient appointments to telemedicine in March. I’m still not seeing patients in person due to the high cost of PPE. Even as things are opening back up, people are cutting down on spending. Integrative medicine is the first thing people cut back on, even before cutting back on entertainment and nonessentials such as beer. That means my business will suffer greatly. Health insurance doesn’t typically pay for acupuncture, nutritional coaching, or herbs/supplements in the state of Arkansas.

Scotty, 24, Massachusetts

Employment status: I work full-time as an assistant teacher at a special needs school. I also drove for Lyft and worked as a janitor. I can’t do those jobs right now, but I did get a summer part-time job at a hardware store for extra money.
Annual income before the pandemic: $25,000 over the year I worked abroad in Wuhan, China (yes, that Wuhan)
Current income: $2,250 a month after taxes
Monthly housing costs: I rent from family, so only $300
Debt: $40,000 in student debt
Groceries (monthly): $400
Utilities: $150
Entertainment (Netflix/Spotify): $20
Are you spending more or less right now? Much less.

Biggest financial concern: Many people my age work multiple jobs. I have had to stop two jobs since the pandemic reached Massachusetts. Combined I earned about $600–900 extra a month. I wish I could do them but I can’t because I’m afraid of getting my mom sick. I’ve been working from home since about March 7. My long-term planning is messed up since I can’t do Lyft (about $800 to $1,000 month). I’m not receiving unemployment.

Andrew, 35, Oregon

Employment status: I work in the service industry — business dining, to be more specific. I was placed on furlough as of June 1, with our employer picking up health care premiums through the end of August, if you are on their plans. Luckily, I am on my wife’s plan which not only is better than any provided by my company, it’s cheaper. We don’t have a return date — I’m hoping it won’t be more than 90 days but I have a bad feeling it will be much longer.
Annual income before the pandemic: $80,000 base + 8–10% bonus
Current income: TBD
Monthly housing costs: $3,000 for mortgage, taxes, and stupid fucking interest
Debt: $26,000 student loans, $3,500 credit card debt, $445,000 mortgage
Groceries (monthly): A fuck ton now! Normally I get free coffee and food at work (all day!). With both me and my wife working from home and eating all meals here, we have doubled our food spending.
Utilities: $400 to $500. Depends on how much we spend on running the A/C.
Entertainment (Netflix/Spotify): Netflix, Starz (awful! Tried to cancel and roped me in to staying for .99/month, which was clever and clearly I’m not the only one), Comcast is the worst and spend $250/month, cellphones are $175/month vs. $235 2 months ago, Xbox Live $50/year, other streaming services ~$10/month.

Are you spending more or less right now? Less right now. Saving on gas, car insurance (not much, assholes), reduced cellphone data plans, etc., all in all we are saving money ’cause we aren’t spending hundreds at Target on useless bullshit 😃 My wife’s job is strong and her company is posting record sales recently even though retail stores are closed and shifting their business model to more dot-com.

Biggest financial concern right now: My wife and I have worked very hard to reduce debt, increase savings and be fiscally responsible. We have $20,000+ in savings, I have 145 hours of vacation / PTO, my wife will be getting her bonus in August. I’m hoping this pandemic doesn’t eat into it but that is a small sacrifice to pay given the current climate. I am waiting anxiously to hear if benefits will be extended past the end of July — the restaurant industry is completely screwed. Every week we see another well-known restaurant, restaurant group or high-profile chef say they are permanently closing their business. What are all of these industry workers going to do?

Mimi, 25, California

Employment status: Laid off in March. Previously worked at a transportation tech startup.
Annual salary before pandemic: $58,000
Current income: $2,010 biweekly from unemployment benefits
Monthly housing costs: Rent is currently $2,200. Moving to a cheaper place in July which will be $1,400.
Debt: None, thankfully.
Groceries (monthly): $400
Utilities: $0
Entertainment (Netflix/Spotify): $15
Are you spending more or less right now? Wayyyyy less. As close to 0 as we can get.

Biggest financial concern right now: I am “hyper-quarantining” as I call it. I am immunosuppressed, so my ability to get work is limited. Not knowing if I will keep receiving enough money to pay rent after July puts me in a high-anxiety position. Also, my health benefits from being laid off will end this month. So starting in July I’ll have an additional $650 monthly expense for health insurance to account for.

Sharon, 33, Florida

Employment status: I work as a barber and cosmetologist but haven’t been able to work since March.
Annual income prior to the pandemic: $13,500 last year, working out of my home, and $28,000 in 2018 working at a shop in downtown Orlando.
Current income: $0. I have not been able to work. I have not received my stimulus check or any unemployment [benefits].
Monthly housing costs: I’ve been homeless since March. I’ve had to move in with friends and family.
Debt: $15,000 in medical, credit card, and collections debts.
Biggest financial concern: I lost my long-term relationship with my boyfriend and subsequently lost my house and my dog and everything I own. This makes it hard to create a fresh start — severe life changes during a pandemic.

Lily, 23, Hawaii

Employment status: I am a budget analyst with the military.
Current income: $55,000 a year, which is very little in Hawaii.
Monthly housing costs: Mortgage payment is $3,900. I purchased my parents’ home in Hawaii to allow them to take a cash-out refinance since they do not have the income to support the mortgage and utilities payments. Since it is not covered under the CARES Act to request mortgage forbearance, I have a lot of additional expenses to factor in with my family out of work.
Debt: $900,000 mortgage
Groceries (monthly): $800
Utilities: $750
Entertainment: $50
Are you spending more or less right now? Less, due to not going out to eat and shopping or any other entertainment and travel, but more on utilities.

Biggest financial concern: Potentially being laid off and not being able to afford my home. I support my younger brother and parents financially and so without my job, we would not be able to survive in Hawaii. My father is a mechanic and owns his own business which has been extremely slow since no one is driving. My mother is a server and since all the dining facilities are closed, she has been without work as well.

Hawaii has one of the highest costs of living and the highest rates of unemployment in the nation right now. Our economy is so hyper-dependent on tourism that once the flights and people were gone, our economy was decimated. It has been very difficult and puts a lot of pressure on me to ensure we can make it through each month on one paycheck. Hopefully as the economy begins to reopen it will improve, but right now, my main concern is ensuring my parents and I stay healthy since they are currently without health insurance.

Kristy, 33, Florida

Employment status: I’m a franchise business manager for a local salad franchise who is currently employed part-time. I was moved from a salaried wage to hourly and can work up to 25 hours a week.
Annual income before the pandemic: $51,000 gross pay
Current monthly income: About $2,100 net, $2,500 gross. Annually would be difficult to say because I should be going back to salary pay at some point when things “normalize.”
Monthly housing costs: $250. I’ve lived with my dad for a few years, which is a huge help, especially now.
Debt: More than $60,000 in student loans (deferred through September); about $3,000 in credit card debt.
Insurance and healthcare (health, dental, car, therapy): $830
Groceries (monthly): $300
Utilities: $440
Entertainment: $90
Are you spending more or less right now? Less.

Biggest financial concern? Even with a pay cut, I did not qualify for any assistance through the marketplace for health insurance and my job has kept me paid enough to where I do not qualify for unemployment/underemployment benefits. I am aware of my privilege and I know I don’t have it nearly as bad as many other Americans, but I’m in a middle/gray area where I don’t qualify for any assistance, and I am just making enough to pay my bills.

Anna, 40, New Jersey

Employment status: I’m a real estate agent and was laid off from a part-time gig as a brand ambassador for a cookware company.
Annual income before the pandemic: Roughly $60,000 last year. My income is commission-based and reliant on transactions and closing deals. However, before the pandemic hit, I had already made $35,000 in January and February 2020, so I was on pace to make over $100,000 [this year].
Current income: Just over $800/week. I filed for unemployment in March when my real estate office closed and I was also laid off from the part-time job. I received benefits because New Jersey made exceptions for independent contractors. I get the minimum $213/week and $600 in pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA).
Monthly housing costs: $977 monthly mortgage payment
Debt: No outstanding debt, just mortgage
Groceries (monthly): $250 to $400
Utilities: $500
Entertainment: $200
Are you spending more or less right now? Less

Biggest financial concern: Collecting unemployment and how it will affect buying a new house. I filed for unemployment in March when my real estate office closed and I was also laid off from the part-time job. I received benefits because New Jersey made exceptions for independent contractors.

Korri, 23, Colorado

Employment status: I was a full-time restaurant server before I was laid off.
Annual salary before layoff: I was making about $37,000–$40,000 a year, about $3,000–3,500 a month on average.
Current income: With the bonus $600/week from the CARES act, I ended up making $1,704 every two weeks, so about $3,408 every month.
Monthly housing costs: My rent was $1,225. I’ve had to move into my parents,’ home.
Debt: I had about $45,000 in debt, a mixture of credit card, car loan, and student loans. Groceries (monthly): $300
Utilities: $150
Entertainment (Netflix/Spotify): $10
Are you spending more or less right now? Less.

Biggest financial concern right now: I was concerned about how I was going to pay my bills. But being able to move back into my parents’ home helps a lot financially, as much as it sucks to be 23 and back at home. Now taking advantage of the situation to pay off debts and save to move and buy a house.

Spot Illustrations: Ben Kothe, Zachary Ares

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As Pandemic Alters Dining, The Infatuation Scraps Its Restaurant Ratings

The Infatuation Inc., the restaurant-recommendation platform, is eliminating all the numerical ratings from its website and app.

This week, the company removed the 4,000-plus ratings, from 0.0 to 10.0, that sat alongside editorial reviews of restaurants in almost 50 cities. Restaurants debuting on the site will not receive any number that sums up their quality.

But The Infatuation had been mulling the purpose of ratings for almost a year, said Hillary Reinsberg, its editor in chief.

“People would often ask us: Are you adding points up? Is an 8.0 in Boston equivalent to an 8.0 in New York? Is it about how fancy a place is? Is service included? Is décor included?” Ms. Reinsberg said. “They’re really hard questions to answer. All rating systems require people to understand the language, and that can be a challenge.”

The company hasn’t beta-tested the ratings-free user experience nor has it discussed the change with restaurateurs. But eliminating the numbers will create a fairer playing ground in what has been a devastating period for the sector, Ms. Reinsberg said.

At the heart of the decision was “recognizing what the experience of going to a restaurant is realistically going to be like right now, and understanding how profoundly that’s changed,” she said.

Social-distancing regulations have closed 23,981 U.S. restaurants in the past four months, 53% of them permanently, according to review site

Yelp Inc.

Many that are open are offering entirely different experiences than before, relying on combinations of delivery, takeout, outdoor dining, altered menus and even cook-at-home meal kits.

Given the situation, to keep pre-coronavirus ratings on the platform could create a false impression of a restaurant, Ms. Reinsberg said, while assigning new ratings under the current pall doesn’t feel appropriate.

“We don’t even know how these restaurants will be operating in a month’s time, or what kind of changes they’re undergoing,” she said. “It doesn’t feel ethical and it doesn’t feel useful to rate them.”

The Infatuation will, however, continue to review restaurants, and may roll out an “Infatuation Approved” label to highlight particularly good ones. It is also considering reformatting its reviews so users can see at a glance whether a restaurant is right for them, rather than reading through 500 words of copy, Ms. Reinsberg said.

Point-based restaurant ratings systems have become pervasive online, and it is unclear how users will react to the shift at The Infatuation.

“I actually enjoy reading reviews, and a rating that encapsulates them can be helpful in some regard. But they simply aren’t appropriate or useful right now,” said Laura Goldberg, a food blogger and founder of a public relations firm. “Restaurants are evolving rapidly to the immediate needs of their customers. For example, one of my favorite spots has reinvented itself as a grocery store.”

The Infatuation’s map feature with ratings.


The Infatuation

Hannah Baker, the head of marketing at a customer engagement agency, said she is a heavy user of the map feature of The Infatuation’s app, which displays nearby restaurant locations and ratings.

“Losing the ability to view their ratings in the map mode of the app is going to make planning social events—whenever they return—significantly more time-consuming,” she said.

Other community review platforms are keeping their ratings systems, but adding new features in light of the pandemic. Tripadvisor Inc. said it has no plan to change its “five-bubble” ratings, but has added a filter that allows users to search for hotels and restaurants that take added safety precautions.

Yelp said it is keeping its ratings, but will be reminding users to be patient and understanding with businesses during this time. Indeed, Yelp plans to add tips on “writing with empathy” to its interface in the next few weeks, according to a company spokeswoman.

Jacksonville Beach restaurant owner Don Nicol explains how he is keeping his staff and customers safe from the coronavirus, while also complying with state occupancy regulations, as Florida reached new case records in June. Photo: Don Nicol/TacoLu

The Infatuation was founded in 2009 by Chris Stang and Andrew Steinthal. The company has since raised $33.5 million in funding, $30 million of it from Jeffrey Katzenberg’s WndrCo. It generates revenue primarily by creating branded content and events for advertisers, while it also owns the food festival EEEEEatscon and the 41-year-old restaurant review brand Zagat, which it bought from Google for an undisclosed amount in 2018.

Despite removing ratings from its own site, The Infatuation will continue to publish crowdsourced numerical ratings on Zagat. The product team is researching the best way to pull together and present user-generated reviews, Ms. Reinsberg said.

“Zagat ratings will be determined by a continuously contributing community, and therefore can and will evolve along with restaurants in the coming months and years,” she said.

“But I think the context is always more important than the rating,” she added. “Zagat has always had ratings, but at its heart was the quotes that people contributed.”

Write to Katie Deighton at

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