Race Discrimination

What is Race or National Origin Discrimination?

Racial discrimination exists when a person is treated unfairly based on the characteristics of his/her race. Such racial characteristics include but are not limited to national origin, ethnicity, or physical characteristics such as skin color, body features or accent.

Racial or national origin discrimination in the workplace can come in different forms. It can be directed at employees or applicants of any racial or ethnic group who are treated unfavorably or differently in the terms or conditions of their employment. This includes people treated unfavorably or differently just because of the color of their skin.

Racial or ethnic discrimination can also happen to someone who is perceived by coworkers or employers to be a member of a certain racial or ethnic group. Racial discrimination can even happen to someone who is associated with people of another race or ethnic background. For example, a Caucasian employee may suffer race discrimination because he or she is married to an African-American or because he or she has friends of a different racial or ethnic group.

Federal and California Laws are in Place to Protect Your Rights

Federal and California laws protect employees from racial discrimination and clearly state that discrimination because of race or skin color is against the law.

The primary federal law addressing racial discrimination in the workplace is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII protects individuals against employment discrimination on the basis of race and color. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees and includes both state and local governments. Under Title VII, equal employment opportunity cannot be denied any person because of his/her racial group, perceived racial group, race-linked characteristics, or because of his/her association with someone of a particular race or color.

In California, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) enforces laws that protect workers from illegal workplace discrimination.

Two Types of Racial Discrimination in the Workplace

There are two types of racial discrimination in the workplace. The most obvious form is “disparate treatment”. The other form type of racial discrimination is “disparate impact.”

  • Disparate Treatment involves an employer’s actions, such as promotions and terminations, which single out an employee or group of employees because of protected characteristics like race, ethnicity or skin color. Examples of this would be where only employees of color are laid off or where only fair skinned employees are promoted.
  • Disparate Impact is a more subtle form of racial discrimination. It occurs where an employer may not intend to discriminate, but the employer’s policies, practices or procedures adversely affect employees on the basis of race, ethnicity, skin color or a similar characteristic. It includes things like rules, regulations and policies implemented by an employer, which on the surface might appear to be race-neutral, but in practice impact people of different races differently. For example, such discriminatory racial impact can be shown by statistics demonstrating that an employer’s selection methods or employment criteria result in employment of a disproportionately larger share of whites than of minorities out of a pool of qualified candidates.

Racial Harassment

Racial harassment in the workplace consists of racial slurs, offensive remarks about a person’s race or color, racial jokes, mockery, intimidation or the display of racially offensive symbols, objects or images. Racial harassment can create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment and can interfere with an employee’s work performance. The harasser can be a supervisor, co-worker, or a client/customer.

California law requires that, when an employer has learned of an incident of racial harassment, it must take immediate action to prevent such action from occurring. It must also engage in a prompt and impartial investigation into the incident. A California employer will be found “strictly liable” for any racial harassment committed by a supervisor. In other words, once the harassment is proven, the employer is automatically liable. Where a co-worker racially harasses another co-worker, the employer must be notified of the harassment and be provided an opportunity to investigate and correct the situation before it becomes liable.

Examples of Racial Discrimination in the Workplace

  • Harassment or discrimination on the basis of race or color, including offensive comments or jokes, other statements or conduct based on race or color that creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment or interferes with the employee’s work performance;
  • Termination of employment based on skin color;
  • Classifications of employees, such that employees of particular races, ethnicity or skin colors, are isolated from other employees, from customer contact or relegated to certain jobs or positions;
  • Denial of benefits and just wages because of one’s country of birth; and
  • Assignment of employees of a particular race, color or ethnicity to particular establishments or geographic areas.

No one should be discriminated against because of his or her race, skin color, or background. No one should have to tolerate racial harassment in the workplace. If you believe that you are a victim of workplace racial discrimination, or have been harassed because of the color of your skin or your ethnicity, contact us for a free consultation and let Hicks & Hicks fight for your right to be free from unlawful discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

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