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Racial Discrimination in the Workplace

Many different types of discrimination can lead to a hostile work environment. This can include:

  • Sexual harassment
  • Age discrimination
  • Disability discrimination
  • Sexual orientation discrimination
  • National origin discrimination
  • Racial discrimination

Racial or ethnic discrimination is a type of employment discrimination that can rear its ugly head in a variety of forms. Racial discrimination is often subtle and difficult to detect, such as an employer's failure to hire or promote a worker on the basis of race. Whatever form it takes, racial discrimination in the workplace is strictly prohibited by the federal government and state laws.

Identifying Racial Discrimination

One of the more difficult aspects of racial discrimination at work is that it can often go undetected. After all, unless an employer admits otherwise, who can say why they made a particular employment decision? That said, there are some instances where an employer may display some discriminatory intent in their employment practices.

For example, when it comes to interviewing, employers should not ask questions about a prospective employee's race. If an employer does so and decides not to hire this employee, it may serve as evidence that race played a role in the decision. Such circumstances are rare, however, and it should also be noted that employers are permitted to ask about race in the context of forms and affirmative action programs, so long as they play no part in the decision-making process.

More often, discrimination is far more subtle, and an individual will have no certainty as to why they weren't hired, unlike the example above. Asking the employer is an option, but employers could offer any viable reason that is not based on race or offer no reason at all. However, it may be possible to use hiring trends as evidence of racial discrimination.

If a lesser-qualified individual is hired or promoted to a position than an employee or applicant of another race, this could also be used as evidence of discrimination.

Employers may be discriminating and not even realize it. Some employers institute hiring practices, tests, or workplace policies that single out or have a greater effect on certain races. If not done for a legitimate business purpose or properly validated, such practices could be considered racial discrimination should a claim be raised.

Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws

The primary federal laws that address race discrimination in the workplace fall under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Race is a protected class.

In large part, Title VII prohibits employers from:

  • Failing or refusing to hire a job applicant based on a person's race
  • Firing or disciplining an employee because of their race
  • Paying an employee less or providing them fewer benefits on account of their race
  • Failing to provide benefits, promotions, or opportunities, to an employee because of their race
  • Classifying or segregating employees or applicants by different races

Along the same lines, employment agencies cannot decide on referrals or work assignments based on an individual's race. Labor unions and representatives cannot refuse membership or expel individuals because of their race.

State Anti-Discrimination Laws

States do not stand on the sidelines when it comes to discrimination in the workplace. State legislation covering workplace discrimination is widespread. It mirrors federal law prohibiting discrimination based on race. The primary differences are the procedures used, and agencies contacted to claim discrimination.

You can learn more about laws applicable to racial discrimination in the workplace here.

Filing a Racial Discrimination Complaint? A Lawyer Can Help

Have you received job-related disparate treatment due to your particular race? Everyone deserves to experience fair employment. Your race should by no means be a condition of employment. If you've experienced discrimination, don't hesitate to contact an employment law attorney. Your lawyer will review laws and your employment policy before pursuing an employment action.

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Next Steps

Contact a qualified employment discrimination attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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