Race and Color Discrimination

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 What Is Race/Color Discrimination?

Racial discrimination is treating people of certain races in a manner that is different from the way people of other races are treated. Federal law, specifically Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibits discrimination on the basis of race in employment.

Title VII forbids all forms of racial discrimination in employment, including discrimination in hiring, pay and fringe benefits, training, work assignments, promotion, layoffs, and firing. Title VII also prohibits discrimination motivated by a person’s skin color, religion, sex, and national origin.

Employers with 15 or more employees are subject to the prohibitions of Title VII, as are government agencies. The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency that is tasked with enforcing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It receives tens of thousands of complaints of discrimination on the basis of race and color every year.

What Are Types of Racial Discrimination?

Of course, discrimination on the basis of race or color can take a number of different forms. Some examples are as follows:

  • Associative Discrimination: This involves discriminating against a person because they associate with other people who have protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. One of the nine protected characteristics is race. The other characteristics that may not serve as grounds for:
    • Disparate treatment are age;
    • Disability;
    • Gender reassignment;
    • Marriage and civil partnership;
    • Pregnancy and maternity;
    • Religion or belief;
    • Sex; and
    • Sexual orientation.
      • An example of this type of discrimination is when an employer refuses to hire an applicant because, for example, the applicant associates with members of a minority racial group at their place of worship;
  • Color Discrimination: This is discrimination based on the color of a person’s skin;
  • Intersectional Discrimination: This is discriminating against a person because of their personal characteristics. These characteristics may include the person’s race or physical appearance, possibly those associated with their race;
  • Reverse Discrimination: This is discrimination against members of a dominant or majority racial group and showing favor to members of a disadvantaged or minority group;
  • Same-race Discrimination: This is discrimination against a person of the same race as yourself.

What Are Pre-employment Inquiries?

Title VII prohibits employers from requesting information about a potential employee’s race. However, employers who have a legitimate need for racial information for compliance with affirmative action requirements may use tear-off sheets. These sheets are not used in the decision-making about hiring an employee but only for the purpose of collecting statistical information.

Employers also should not ask a job applicant whether or not they are a U.S. citizen before they offer the applicant employment. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) requires employers to verify an employee’s identity and eligibility for employment after they are hired. They are to do this by completing the Employment Eligibility Verification Form (I-9).

Employers should review documents that show an employee’s identity and eligibility for employment after they have been employed. Moreover, an employer cannot reject valid documents or insist that the employee show documents other than those required for the Form I-9 or the E-Verify process because of their citizenship status or national origin.

So, for example, an employer cannot demand that only those employees they have hired whom they perceive to be “foreign” show documents such as Permanent Resident (“green”) card or an employment authorization document.

The only documents an employee can choose from to show their employer are those on the Form I-9 Lists of Acceptable Documents. Employers are supposed to accept any unexpired document from the I-9 list if it appears genuine on its face and relates to the employee.

How Do I Prove Race and Color Discrimination?

Courts apply a four-part test that employees must meet to establish a prima facie case of discrimination under Title VII. If an employee can present evidence of each element of the four-part test, the employer then has to present evidence that its decision was not discriminatory and not based on race or color.

If an employee does not successfully show each element of the prima facie case, the employer can ask the judge to dismiss the employee’s lawsuit.

The elements of a prima facie case of discrimination on the basis of race or color are as follows:

  • Protected Class: The employee is in a protected class based on their race, color, national origin, and so on;
  • Qualification of the Employee: The employee was qualified for an employment position. For example, an applicant who was not hired would have to show that they met the requirements for the job. An employee who was fired would have to show that their performance had met the standard and the employer’s expectations;
  • Rejection: The person was rejected for a position either because they were not hired, not promoted or was fired, or otherwise experienced some disadvantage in employment;
  • Choice of Another for Employment Benefit: An employee who was not a member of a protected class was chosen for a job, or the employer continued to look for candidates. For example, an employee who claims they were not promoted because of their race or color would show that another person of a preferred race or color was promoted instead or that the company continued to look for internal candidates after rejecting the person.

If the employee is successful in making their prima facie case, a jury trial can go forward. The employer can present evidence in its defense.

What Steps Should I Take?

The EEOC requires a person who believes they have been discriminated against on the basis of race to first file a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC before they file a job discrimination lawsuit against their employer in a court of law. The charge should be filed with the EEOC within 180 days.

In addition, an individual, organization, or agency is allowed to file a charge on behalf of another person in order to protect the person’s identity. There are time limits for filing a charge. The EEOC enforces laws that require it to notify the employer that a charge has been filed against it.

A Charge of Discrimination can be completed through our EEOC Public Portal after a person submits an online inquiry and is interviewed by an EEOC employee. A person can also file a charge in person, by telephone, by mail, or with a state or local agency that enforces state or local discrimination laws.

Filing a formal charge of employment discrimination is a serious matter. In the EEOC’s experience, giving an employee an opportunity to discuss their concerns with an EEOC staff member in an interview is the best way to figure out how to address their concerns and decide whether filing a charge of discrimination is the right path forward. The final decision to file a charge always belongs to the employee.

The EEOC contacts the employee and employer soon after a charge is filed and asks them if they are interested in participating in mediation. The choice to go through mediation is voluntary. If either the employer or employee refuses mediation, there is no mediation, and the charge is assigned to an investigator.

If both parties agree to mediate, the EEOC schedules the mediation. A trained and experienced mediator conducts the medication. If the parties do not come to a mutually acceptable resolution at the mediation, the charge is then investigated just as any other charge is.

If the parties do reach an agreement, it is expressed in writing and signed by both parties. It is then enforceable in court just like any other contract.

If the EEOC cannot determine that there was discrimination in a case, it provides a person with a notice informing them that they have a right to file a lawsuit in federal court within 90 days from the day they receive the notice.

If EEOC determines there is reasonable cause to believe that there was discrimination, then the employee and employer are sent a Letter of Determination. It says that there is reason to believe that discrimination occurred. It further invites them to seek resolution through conciliation, an informal dispute resolution process.

If the parties cannot resolve the charge through conciliation, the EEOC has the authority to file a lawsuit in federal court. If the EEOC decides not to file a suit, the person who filed the charge receives a notice that they have a right to file a lawsuit in federal court within 90 days.

Should I Consult an Attorney?

If you believe that you have experienced discrimination on the basis of your race or color in your workplace, you want to consult a race discrimination attorney. LegalMatch.com can connect you to an experienced attorney who can review the facts of your case and tell if there may be grounds for a claim.

Your attorney is familiar with the special procedures that must be followed, including filing a charge with the EEOC. You want to have the help of the expertise of a qualified attorney for filing an EEOC charge and gathering relevant evidence to prove your case.

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