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You are Here: Home > Discrimination > Race Discrimination at Work

Race Discrimination at Work

Race Discrimination Definition

Race discrimination is also referred to as race-based discrimination, racial discrimination or color discrimination. Race discrimination at work occurs when employers or their representatives demonstrate prejudice against employees on the basis of their race or skin color. It is similar to national origin discrimination, but based on different characteristics.

Race Discrimination Laws

There are no Federal "race discrimination laws" entitled as such. Rather race discrimination law falls under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a landmark Federal discrimination law that prohibits employment prejudice on the basis of religion, national origin or sex (gender), and race or color as well.

Title VII applies to private- and public-sector employers with 15 or more employees, and employment agencies and labor unions. It protects all employees from race discrimination at work, not just racial minorities.

Did you know? States may enact their own race discrimination laws that have the same or better protections than Title VII. Many have under what are typically referred to as fair employment practices laws or FEP laws. You are protected by whichever law affords the most protection.

Race discrimination is prohibited in any aspect of employment under Title VII, including:

Race discrimination at work is prohibited not only on the basis of race or skin color, but also on the basis of racial characteristics, stereotypes and assumptions, and associations with people of a particular race or color.

Race discrimination at work is also prohibited in the form of a hostile work environment created by racial or ethnic slurs, racial jokes, derogatory comments, or any offensive workplace conduct based on race or color.

Race Discrimination Legal Recourse

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces race discrimination law under Title VII. If you reasonably believe that your employer has discriminated against you at work on the basis of race or color, then you or your representative, such as your lawyer, may file a race discrimination charge against your employer with the EEOC. "Employer" includes a boss, coworker or other employer representative.

To file a race discrimination charge with the EEOC, you don't have to know for sure that your employer violated Title VII or an equivalent state law, as that's for your lawyer or the EEOC to figure out. You need only to reasonably believe that your employer is guilty of race discrimination against you; but, of course, it's not a good idea to file a frivolous charge.

Because the EEOC is barraged with discrimination charges annually, they take on only the most legally-compelling cases. Subsequently, you might want hire a lawyer to file your charge in a legally-compelling way, to better convince the EEOC to take your case or grant you permission to file a lawsuit in court. Lawyers often take race discrimination cases on a contingency basis.

Under Title VII, your employer is prohibited from retaliating against you for filing a race discrimination charge or lawsuit, or for participating in related proceedings. Your employer is also prohibited from retaliating against witnesses who testify on your behalf, such as coworkers. If your employer retaliates against you or your witnesses anyway, then you or your witnesses may take legal action to seek relief.

Did you know? Suing to seek relief for race discrimination or race-based retaliation under Section 1981 of civil rights law has several advantages over suing for same under Title VII. For more information, see the blog post "Race-Based Retaliation Lawsuits" or consult a lawyer.

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