Practice Areas

Employee Rights

Race Discrimination

The law prohibits employers from discriminating against job applicants and employees because of their race, ethnicity, color, or national origin. For more information on national origin discrimination, click here. It forbids race discrimination in aspects of employment, such as hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, benefits, or other conditions of employment.

It is also illegal to harass a person because of their race. Harassment can include offensive or derogatory comments or jokes about a person’s race if those comments are so frequent or severe that they create a hostile or offensive work environment.

The law also protects employees from discrimination because of their association with family and friends of a different race. Even unintentional race discrimination may be illegal if it tends to harm persons of one race more than persons of other races. However, an employer may make certain employment decisions based on race if doing so is reasonably necessary for normal business operations.

Steven Andrew Smith

Employment Law Attorney
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Potential Forms of Race Discrimination:

  • Although you have performed your job as well or better than co-workers of different races, you are paid less for the same work, denied a promotion, demoted, laid off, or fired.
  • Your employer bases promotions on the ability to pass a skills test, even though the tested skills are not required for the job. Co-workers of your race generally do not do as well on the test as co-workers of other races.
  • Your boss helps co-workers of other races to perform well by giving them opportunities that he or she denies you. Alternatively, your workplace has classified you differently from co-workers of other races, and this makes it more difficult for you to get pay raises and promotions.
  • Your boss or co-workers make racial jokes about you or in front of you and otherwise harass you about your race.
  • You applied for a job, but the employer hired an applicant of another race, even though you were more qualified.
  • You have suffered any of the above discrimination because you have family and friends of different races or because you belong to a group that includes members of a different race.
  • An employer has refused to hire you based on a criminal conviction, but the employer cannot demostrate that their policy of refusing to hire people with convictions is job related for the positions in question and consistent with business necessity.

Trends in Race and Color Discrimination

Unfortunately, recent studies indicate that race and color discrimination is on the rise in the workplace. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed an increasing number of charges for race/color based discrimination over the past several years: 26,740 charges in 2005 and 33,937 charges in 2008. Racial inequality persists in our country. According to the National Urban League’s “State of Black America 2009” report, between 2003 and 2007, the poverty rate and home ownership rate declined for Blacks but increased for Whites. Blacks are twice as likely to be unemployed compared with Whites.

Employees should be treated fairly regardless of their race and color. Nichols Kaster seeks to remedy past discrimination and prevent further inequities in the treatment of employees based upon their race or color. For more information about these issues, see the following websites:

To return to the Practice Areas Discrimination page, click here.