French activists pose as employers to denounce racism

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PARIS – French anti-racism activists who have phoned temp agencies posing as a construction company wishing to hire only “European” workers say more than a third of companies have agreed to help discriminatory research.

SOS Racisme, a national anti-discrimination association, broadcast audio recordings of some of the calls made in May to 69 temporary work agencies in the Ile-de-France region on Friday.

During the calls, activists pretended to work for a fictitious construction company looking for manual workers for a construction site. They explained that they were only looking for workers with “European profiles”, not suggesting people of color.

“If there is absolutely no record of this type of exchange, we can do what is necessary,” said a woman who answered one of the calls, according to the records.

An employee of another agency was recorded saying, “I’m taking a note for myself so that I can offer you the profiles you want.

“But I can’t say it will be that color or that community. It’s too complicated, ”she added.

Discrimination based on color, sex, nationality, sexual orientation or religious beliefs is illegal in France.

SOS Racisme said the 69 bureaus it called were all subsidiaries of France’s major temp companies, with billions of dollars in combined revenue.

The head of the anti-racist NGO SOS Racisme, Dominique Sopo, delivers a speech in front of placards and cannon balls and chains as people gather to protest in front of the headquarters of the magazine Valeurs Actuelles in Paris on September 4, 2020.
AFP via Getty Images

He said 55% of branches contacted refused discrimination claims.

But 39% of those called agreed to eliminate people on racial grounds, the campaign group said.

The remaining 6% also refused to select candidates racially, but suggested the fictitious company do it itself, SOS Racism said.

Although limited to a small number of agencies, the findings highlight what anti-racist activists say is a broader issue of discrimination in some French workplaces.

Previous research has shown discrimination against job seekers from neighborhoods with an immigrant population or whose names are not traditionally French.


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