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An Overview of Race Discrimination in the Workplace

We hope that someday, job-related race discrimination will only be studied as an employment practice of the past. We would live in a world where discrimination complaints were few and far between. But the unfortunate reality is that many still face racial discrimination. People continue to experience discrimination based on the following:

  • A person's race
  • National heritage
  • Personal characteristics associated with race (i.e., facial features, hair texture, skin color)

Employers that make employment decisions on the basis of race or practice race discrimination put themselves at risk. They can face heavy fines if an employee sues based on a discrimination claim.

This section contains useful information for employees and job applicants about bringing an employment action in court or raising a complaint based on racial discrimination. This includes information about what kinds of practices might be discriminatory.

What Is Race Discrimination?

Race discrimination in employment involves treating an applicant or employee unfavorably because they are of a certain race or because of personal characteristics associated with race. For example, minorities such as African Americans or Latinos can face a hostile work environment due to race.

Race discrimination can also involve treating someone unfavorably because of marital status. Discrimination due to being married to a person of a certain race or color is also prohibited under the law.

It is not necessary that the victim of disparate treatment and the person inflicting the discrimination are of different races. Discrimination can occur when the victim and the person who inflicted the discrimination are of the same race or color.

What Situations Are Prohibited?

The law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment. This includes treating someone unfavorably due to race or personal characteristics in any of the following:

  • Hiring
  • Pay
  • Fringe benefits
  • Job assignments
  • Firing
  • Training
  • Promotions and demotions
  • Any other condition of employment

Employment laws forbid discrimination based on any of the above. An employment policy or practice that applies to everyone can be race discrimination if it has a disparate impact on the employment of people of a particular race or color. The protections extend when the policy or practice applies to everyone but is not job-related or necessary to the operation of the business.

Race Discrimination Laws Impacting Employment Policies and Practices

Federal, state, and local lawmakers have passed many laws in an attempt to put an end to racial discrimination. In addition to laws enforced by the federal government, many state laws and local civil rights laws may mirror federal legislation. Some municipalities have introduced their own civil rights laws.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) handles charges of employment discrimination because of a person's race, among other characteristics. Many states, such as New York, make filing complaints even easier for employees. Special state agencies manage such claims.

Federal Laws Addressing Racial Discrimination in the Workplace

The most influential federal laws relating to racial discrimination in employment include:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Prohibits racial discrimination in employment. It covers all private employers, state and local government employers, and educational institutions with 15 or more employees.
  • U.S.C. Title 42, Chapter 21: Prohibits racial discrimination in education, employment, access to businesses and buildings, federal services, and more.

Filing a Charge of Employment Discrimination

You must contact the EEOC to file a charge for employment discrimination. This signed statement asserts that an employer engaged in employment discrimination based on race (or other protected characteristic). You must file a charge with the EEOC before filing a lawsuit for unlawful discrimination.

To learn more about the procedure for filing a charge of employment discrimination, please review Filing Discrimination Charges With the EEOC.

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You Don't Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get Help from an Attorney

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find an employment lawyer near you who can help.

Learn About Race Discrimination

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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