Racial Discrimination and Harassment

Racial Discrimination and Harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42 U.S.C. §1981

What is Race Discrimination?

Federal laws forbid discrimination based on an individual’s race/color in regard to any aspect of employment such as: hiring, firing, pay/wages, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.

Race discrimination is the treatment of an individual unfavorably because he/she is of a certain race or because of personal characteristics associated with race. Color discrimination involves treating someone unfavorably because of skin color complexion.

Discrimination based on race/color may also involve being treated unfavorably because of an individual’s marriage to or close association with a person of a certain race or color or because of a person’s connection with a race-based organization or group, or an organization or group that is generally associated with people of a certain color.

What is Racial Harassment?

It is also against federal laws to harass an individual because of that person’s race or color.

Racial harassment can include the use of racial slurs, offensive or derogatory remarks about a person’s race or color, or the display of racially-offensive symbols. Racial harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an individual being subjected to an adverse employment decision, such as being demoted, denied a promotion, or terminated.

Who is protected under the law?

Individuals of all races/colors can be victims of racial discrimination or harassment. Race/color discrimination can occur when the victim and the person who inflicted the discriminaton are the same race or color. The victim does not have to be the person targeted by the harasser, but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct. The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or even a non-employee such as a client, customer or contractor.

Reporting Racial Discrimination/Harassment

It is helpful for the victim to directly inform the harasser that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. If the employer has a complaint mechanism or grievance system available, the employee must report the racial harassment.

Unlawful Retaliation

Not only is it illegal to racially harass and/or discriminate against an employee, but once that employee complains about the racial harassment and/or discrimination it is illegal for the employer to retaliate against that employee for their complaint. In other words, it is illegal for the employer to fire, demote, harass, or otherwise “retaliate” against people because they complained about the racial harassment/discrimination or because they participated in an investigation or claim regarding racial harassment/discrimination.

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