Racial and ethnic discrimination occur on a daily basis in a number of different scenarios. In the workplace, racial discrimination could occur in subtler ways such as failure to hire someone because of their race or ethnicity. Regardless of how discrimination occurs, it is important for employees in California to understand that this form of discrimination is strictly prohibited by a number of federal and state laws.
What is Racial Discrimination?
Racial discrimination in the workplace occurs when a person is treated differently based on their actual or perceived race. It also includes discrimination based on skin color and ethnicity. Even though color generally refers to discrimination based on one's complexion, pigmentation, or skin tone, it could occur between persons of different races or ethnicities of even between persons of the same race or ethnicity.
Racial discrimination could occur directly when an employer, supervisor, or co-worker intentionally targets or berates the member of a racial group or indirectly when a company policy excludes minorities for a reason that is not related to the job. Federal laws also prohibit racial discrimination based on stereotypes, assumptions about the person's abilities or traits.
You may have been the victim of racial discrimination if you have been in or experienced any of the following situations:
Hiring and job termination
If you apply for a job for which you have the qualifications and experience, but are not hired because of your race, that amounts to racial discrimination. Minority employees may also encounter situations where they are fired or laid off because of reorganization and cutbacks, but white employees with the same job and less seniority may keep their jobs.
If you have worked for your company for several years receiving excellent job performance reviews, but are repeatedly passed up for promotions because of your race, that amounts to racial discrimination as well. This may be particularly true if the positions for which you applied are being filled by less qualified people of a different race.
Discrepancies in pay between racial groups are well documented in the United States. For example, African-American employees performing the same job as their Caucasian counterpart may be making significantly less. Providing someone with a lower salary solely because of his or her race or ethnicity is illegal. In some companies minority workers find that their job classification and pay remain stagnant while white colleagues have their pay and job description or classification adjusted to reflect increased responsibilities.
If you are being harassed at work because of your race, that amounts to racial discrimination as well. For example, if a colleague thinks it's funny to repeatedly use the "N-word," that is harassment, even if it is not directed at you. When individuals make consistent off-color remarks or insinuations about workers who are African Americans, Latinos, Asians or other minorities, that amounts to creating a hostile work environment.
Protections Under the Law
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal law that safeguards individuals from racial discrimination in the work place. This particular law makes it illegal for an employer to practice discrimination against individuals because of their race when it comes to hiring, firing, promotions, compensation, job training or any other employment action. California also has strong laws prohibiting discrimination based on race.
The Civil Rights Act covers all state and local government departments, private employers and educational institutions that employ 15 or more people. These protections against racial discrimination apply to those who are currently employed with the company or organization as well as well as job applicants. If you are a current employee and are fired, passed up for promotions or paid at a lower rate than others with similar qualifications and job descriptions, you are protected under this law. Job applicants who are not hired because of their race are also protected.
Proving Racial Discrimination
There are two main types of racial discrimination in the workplace. "Disparate treatment" occurs when employees are deliberately treated differently because of their race. For example, paying ethnic minorities lower salaries can be an example of disparate treatment.
"Disparate impact" refers to an adverse impact that arises from racial discrimination. This occurs when workplace practices that are seemingly harmless can actually have a negative impact on ethnic minorities. For example, requiring women to straighten their hair on the job may have an adverse impact on African-American employees. In a case involving disparate treatment, there must be a finding of intentional discrimination, which means the plaintiff must prove that the employer had the intent to discriminate. Disparate intent cases don't require evidence of intent.
What Steps Can I Take?
If you think you have suffered race discrimination, here are some of the steps you may be able to take:
- Talk to the person who discriminated against you.
- Use an internal grievance procedure by making a written report to a supervisor or an official with the company's human resources department.
- Maintain a record of discriminatory emails, internal memos or other documents, which could serve and crucial pieces of evidence in your case. Make sure you store all this information at your home where you can access it anytime.
- Do not post anything on social media about your case. While some might believe it's a good idea to publicize their trauma at work, doing so might end up jeopardizing your case. What you post online or on social media can and most likely, will be used against you.
- File a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
- Contact an experienced discrimination attorney who will be able to fight for your rights and hold your employer accountable.
Should I Contact A Racial Discrimination Attorney?
Were you fired? Are you concerned that it was because of your race? You're not alone, but, if you do nothing, you won't receive what you are rightfully owed for your ordeal. By speaking with a lawyer, you can get your questions answered and obtain much-needed info about how to protect yourself.
The experienced discrimination lawyers at Kingsley & Kingsley have a long and successful track record of representing the rights of individuals who have been discriminated against in the workplace simply because of who they are. This is an ugliness that still exists in our society, which also sometimes manifests in our workplaces. Not only is it unacceptable, but it is also illegal. Call us at 888-500-8469 for a free, comprehensive and confidential consultation. We can help you fight for your rights and secure just compensation.