Discrimination Law

Race Discrimination

Employees expect fair treatment at work. Unfortunately, managers and coworkers sometimes treat people of a particular race less favorably. But victims of race discrimination aren’t powerless. State and federal laws make treating employees poorly because of their race illegal.

This article discusses race discrimination in the workplace. State employment laws vary. So, you should contact an employment lawyer in your area. An experienced attorney can explain the laws in your state and represent you in potential legal action against your employer.

What Is Race Discrimination?

Businesses make many employment decisions. Most of the time, they base those decisions on your qualifications. But other times, they use a characteristic unrelated to the job to make those decisions.

Race discrimination is when your employer treats you unfairly because of your race. It can occur in any aspect of employment, from hiring to firing. Race discrimination isn’t just about skin color. It’s also racial characteristics like hair texture and facial features.

Color discrimination is like race discrimination. It’s when discrimination is based on the lightness or darkness of your skin. Color discrimination can happen between people of different races or between people of the same race.

What Laws Prohibit Race Discrimination?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the primary federal anti-discrimination law. It makes it illegal to discriminate based on specific protected characteristics. The act protects the following characteristics:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Sex
  • Religion

The law covers job applicants and employees. It applies to all aspects of employment. Examples include the following:

  • Hiring
  • Promotion
  • Termination
  • Pay
  • Job training

Under Title VII, your boss can’t discriminate against you because of your race or color. Its protections extend to stereotypes about racial groups.

You also can’t be discriminated against because you’re affiliated with a particular race. The following are some examples:

  • Marriage with someone of a different race or ethnic group
  • Membership in an ethnic-based organization
  • Attendance at schools or places of worship associated with a particular race

Cultural practices or characteristics include cultural dress and manner of speech. But practices or characteristics that disrupt the workplace aren’t protected.

Title VII also makes racial harassment and segregation in the workplace illegal. Harassment includes racial slurs, ethnic jokes, and other derogatory comments.

State laws also protect you against racial discrimination at work. An employment attorney in your area can explain your state’s laws.

Who Do Race Discrimination Laws Cover?

Title VII applies to a range of employers and employees.


Title VII applies to most employers with 15 or more employees. Employers include private employers, labor unions, and employment agencies. The act also applies to state and local governments.


Title VII protects all employees of a covered employer. That includes part-time and temp workers. It also protects all employment levels, from entry-level to senior management.


Title VII allows religious organizations to make employment decisions based on religious preferences. For example, a catholic church can prefer catholic job applicants.

Some state laws protect you beyond Title VII. For example, they may lower the employee threshold. You should contact an employment lawyer in your area. They can advise you about your specific situation.

How Do I Report Race Discrimination?

The first place you can consider reporting race discrimination is to your employer. Employers often have procedures for reporting problems to their human resources department (HR).

You may not be comfortable reporting incidents to HR. In that case, you can file a complaint with The U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC). It’s the primary federal agency that enforces equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws.

There may be state and local agencies you can also contact. A local employment attorney can explain your options.

How Do I Prove Race Discrimination?

Proving discrimination can be difficult. Taking the following steps can help you show racial discrimination:

  • Document the incidents of discrimination that you experience. Include relevant information such as the date, time, location, and people involved. Also, include a description of the incident.
  • Get the name and contact information of anyone who saw the incident.
  • Gather your employment records, including performance evaluations. Also, gather emails, memos, and text messages that show discrimination.
  • Compare your treatment to coworkers. Look for preferential treatment for people of other races.

What Can I Win in a Race Discrimination Case?

The damages available in a race discrimination case include the following:

  • Reinstatement if you were fired
  • Back pay for lost wages, like if you lost a promotion because of your race
  • Front pay when reinstatement is impossible that covers from when your case ends to when you find a new job
  • Compensatory damages to pay you for the harm you suffered, like emotional distress and mental anguish
  • Punitive damages to punish your employer for egregious acts of discrimination
  • Attorney’s fees and legal costs

Contact an Employment Lawyer for Help With Your Case

You do not have to suffer from the cruel effects of race discrimination in silence. If you think you are the victim of racial discrimination, you should contact an employment lawyer for help. Your lawyer can defend your rights and help you determine the best way to proceed for seeking justice.

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