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When Can I Sue an Employer for Racial Discrimination?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

It's pretty well settled by now that employers can't discriminate based on race. But that doesn't mean that racial discrimination in the workplace doesn't happen. The hard part can be identifying discrimination when it happens and then proving it in a complaint or a lawsuit.

So what are your legal options if a current or prospective employer discriminated against you based on your race, and when can you exercise them?

You Got ID?

The first step is being able to identify racial discrimination when it happens. Obviously, a refusal to interview or hire candidates based on their race can be discriminatory. But there are also signs of employment discrimination that can occur after a person is hired:

  1. A minimum of diversity in the office;
  2. Placing employees of a certain race in specific roles;
  3. Passing over employees of a certain race for promotion;
  4. Consistently giving employees of a certain race poor performance reviews; and/or
  5. Alienating employees based on race.

Identifying racial discrimination and gathering evidence in the workplace may be the most important part of any discrimination claim.

You Got a Charge?

Before filing a lawsuit against an employer, you may first need to file a complaint or charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC is the federal agency in charge of handling the majority of federal employment discrimination claims, and is often the starting point for any legal action.

Be aware that there are deadlines to filing an EEOC discrimination complaint: victims have 180 calendar days to file a complaint, after which you may be barred from suing for discrimination under federal law. (There are, however, some state or city laws than can extend this deadline to 300 days.)

You Got a Lawsuit?

After investigating your claim, the EEOC will either resolve your case or clear you to file a discrimination suit. There are certain considerations when filing a lawsuit, like whether to file in state or federal court, and civil lawsuits can be long, complicated procedures.

If you believe an employer has discriminated against you based on your race, and are thinking of filing a racial discrimination lawsuit, you may want to consult with an experienced civil rights attorney first.

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