Racial discrimination in the workplace is not only unethical and unfair, but it is also illegal. Despite racial discrimination being against the law on both a state and federal level, the practice of treating employees differently based on race and racial characteristics is still widely practiced in today’s work environments.
Racial characteristics include, but are not limited to, national origin, ethnicity, and physical characteristics such as skin color, body features, or accents. Additionally, racial discrimination can also occur when an employee is perceived to be a certain race or ethnicity by their employers or coworkers.
If you feel you have been harassed or discriminated against based on your race or ethnicity, the attorneys at Shegerian & Associates can help you stand up for your rights and file a lawsuit against your employer and all other perpetrators of the discriminatory actions.
An employer in California cannot refuse to hire you based on your race or ethnicity. Employment discrimination based on race or ethnicity is a violation of both California state and federal law. Racial discrimination can take on many other different forms, including when an employer:
- Refuses to hire or interview a job applicant
- Demotes, lays off, or fires an employee
- Discriminates against an employee in terms of the conditions of employment
- Pays an employee less or offers them less benefits
- Denies a promotion to a qualified employee
- Forces an employee to quit
- Harasses an employee (or allows someone else to) based on race that may include racial slurs, offensive jokes, derogatory statements, or displays of racially offensive symbols
- Creates a hostile work environment that may include workplace bullying
- Refers to you in a derogatory way or by a color, such as white, black, brown, yellow, or red
Racial discrimination includes race and ethnicity, as well as perceived race and ethnicity. Race, color, and ethnicity often have a lot of overlap, but in general, any type of unfair treatment based on these characteristics is considered an illegal form of discrimination. This includes treating you unfairly based on:
- How you look
- Where you were born
- Your heritage or national origin
- Your physical characteristics, such as your skin color, hair color, hair texture, hairstyle, eye color
- Your cultural or linguistic characteristics
- Your tribal affiliation
- The national origin of your spouse, friends, or family
Laws Protecting Employees from Racial Discrimination
Federally, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act makes racial discrimination illegal in the workplace in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Passed in 1964, the Civil Rights Act was one of the major achievements of the civil rights movement in the 1960s aimed at achieving equality for African-Americans in all areas of society. However, because of the law’s broad wording it applies to all racial minorities, including those who identify as Latino, Asian or Native American.
Title VII’s protections against racial discrimination at work apply to companies with 15 or more employees. It covers all aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, promotion, wages, and benefits. In general, any type of unfair treatment based on race is unlawful.
Most states also have laws carrying even broader prohibitions against racism in the workplace. In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) is statewide law that protects employees against discrimination if they work at companies with 5 or more full-time or part-time employees. Unpaid interns are also considered employees in the context of discrimination laws.
Additionally, laws protecting against racial discrimination are not limited to just employers. They also apply to labor unions and labor organizations, which means that individuals cannot be excluded or expelled from membership based on race. To learn more, you may consult with a race discrimination lawyer.
Racial discrimination can take many forms. Discrimination at work is sometimes blatant, open and obvious, while other discrimination can be more subtle and nuanced. While this type of racial discrimination may be more difficult to prove, it is considered illegal. Today, unconscious bias and prejudice figure highly into cases of racism in the workplace.
There are some signs that may indicate that your employer or potential employer is taking discriminatory action against you based on your race or ethnicity. This may include asking improper questions during an interview process or during the course of your employment regarding your:
- Place of birth
- Parents’ ancestry
- Cultural heritage
- Language ability, if not relevant to the scope of your job duties
Additionally, some signs of racial discrimination at work may include:
- Sudden changes in job performance reviews
- Exclusion from meetings, events, or hangouts
- Promoting certain employees based on race
- Failing to stop jokes regarding race in the workplace
- Retaliating against employees who report racial discrimination
- Job segregation, which entails putting employees of different races into different types of jobs
- Failing to consider or hire certain job applicants because of their names
- Different rule enforcement based on race
There are several ways that you can build a strong case for racial discrimination, including:
- Keep detailed records: Keep a record of any discriminatory incidents, including the date, time, location, and details of what happened. Save any emails, texts, or other documents that support your case.
- Seek support: Talk to coworkers, supervisors, or human resources representatives who may have witnessed or heard about the discriminatory behavior. Document any conversations you have with these individuals.
- Gather evidence: Collect any documents, emails, or other evidence that support your case, such as performance evaluations, job descriptions, or company policies.
- File a complaint: File a complaint with your company's human resources department or with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or state labor department.
- Consult with an attorney: Consult with an experienced employment law attorney who can advise you on your legal rights and help you build a strong case.
Some specific signs of racial discrimination at work may include:
- Unequal pay or opportunities for advancement
- Racially charged comments or jokes
- Denial of training or professional development opportunities
- Exclusion from company activities or events
- Different standards or expectations based on race
Several laws are applicable to racial discrimination in the workplace, including:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: This federal law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It applies to employers with 15 or more employees.
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): This law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees with disabilities, including those who have a disability related to race or ethnicity. It applies to employers with 15 or more employees.
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA): This law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees who are 40 years of age or older. It applies to employers with 20 or more employees.
- The Equal Pay Act (EPA): This law prohibits employers from paying employees of one race or gender less than employees of another race or gender for equal work. It applies to all employers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The specific damages you may receive depend on the circumstances of your case, but they may include:
- Back pay and front pay: Back pay is compensation for lost wages and benefits that you would have earned if you had not been subject to discrimination. Front pay is compensation for future lost wages and benefits.
- Compensatory damages: These are damages that compensate you for the emotional pain, suffering, and mental anguish caused by the discrimination.
- Punitive damages: These are damages that are intended to punish the employer for the discriminatory conduct and to deter future discrimination.
- Attorney's fees and court costs: If you win your case, your employer may be required to pay your attorney's fees and court costs.
Filing a Claim with the CRD or EEOC
Racial discrimination is in violation of state and federal law. If you think you’re a victim of racism in the workplace, the first step toward making a formal legal complaint is to file a charge with the California Civil Rights Department (CRD), which is the state agency that handles complaints of racial discrimination.
You may also be able simultaneously file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal government agency responsible for addressing racial discrimination claims in the workplace. However, because the state of California offers broader protections against discrimination, most employees choose to file a complaint with the CRD.
Once you file a claim, the agency will investigate your charge to determine whether it should take action in the case. If you want to file a lawsuit against your employer, you are required to exhaust all other legal remedies first.
You can either wait until the CRD investigates the claim to give you a right to sue, or your attorney may obtain an immediate right to sue without having to wait for the administrative process first. In general, you have 3 years from the last incident of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation to file an official complaint with the agency.
Filing a Lawsuit Against Your Employer
In California, it is your civil right to seek and hold employment regardless of your race, color, ethnicity, or national origin. If you were discriminated against based on one of these characteristics, you also have the right to file a civil lawsuit against the employer for unlawful discrimination.
Once you have a “right to sue” notice from the CRD or EEOC, your racial discrimination lawyer will take the necessary steps to file your case with the California Superior Court, in the county where the discrimination took place, or in another relevant county.
A formal complaint will be served to your employer and any other parties who participated in unlawful discrimination. These individuals will be named as the defendants and will be given a chance to give a formal answer to the complaint. The case may proceed to litigation and eventually to trial.
At any point during this process, however, you and your employer can negotiate a settlement before the case reaches trial. This settlement should be enough to cover the entirety of your damages, which will vary based on the extent, nature, and severity of the racial discrimination that you experienced. In general, you may be able to recover damages for:
- Back wages with interest
- Front pay
- Higher income from a passed promotion
- Higher income from a raise
- Bonus payments
- Health benefits
- Pension benefits
- Emotional Distress
- Pain and suffering
Call Shegerian & Associates to Assert Your Rights
If you’ve suffered racial discrimination at work, you need a skilled employment law attorney. Anti-discrimination laws, and the EEOC process, are very complicated, with strict rules and deadlines.
Shegerian & Associates has years of expertise and a 98% win rate with our experienced racial discrimination lawyers. We charge on a contingency basis, which means you don’t pay a thing unless we win a cash verdict or settlement for you. The initial consultation is free. Everything is free. We do it this way so that more people can access the legal system. That’s why we have one of the best reputations in California: We serve everybody, no matter what your job is or how much money you make.
You don’t have to put up with racism in the workplace. Contact Shegerian & Associates today to learn your rights and options during a free case evaluation. Our racial discrimination lawyers will assist you in every step of the legal action.