Race, Color, and National Origin Discrimination
Since the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, there has been significant progress in confronting the awful legacy of racism in America, but sadly, employment discrimination based on race and national origin is still all too common. Too many employers permit the color of an employee’s skin, rather than his performance at work, decide what kind of job security and opportunities he will enjoy. Hall & Lampros employment discrimination attorneys believe that we’ve come too far as a country to let this happen, and so we fight for anyone who is discriminated against work because of their race, color, or national origin.
Workplace discrimination against employees on the basis of race, color, or national origin is prohibited by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Ku Klux Klan Acts (42 U.S.C. § 1981), and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). Hall & Lampros employment discrimination attorneys have handled hundreds of race discrimination cases and can get you the justice and compensation you deserve if you have been a victim of race or national origin discrimination. If you believe you have or have filed a case with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), you should call us today for a free consultation at 404-876-8100 or submit a confidential inquiry and an attorney will contact you right away.
Differences Between Race, Color, and National Origin Discrimination
Title VII makes it unlawful to discriminate against an employee because of his race; for example, because he is Asian, Black, Hispanic or Latino, Native American or Indian, or white. We often recognize this kind of discrimination because of racial slurs or epithets that people use against different racial groups, or stereotypes about different racial groups.
Race discrimination refers to discrimination that is predicated on an employee’s race or perceived race. It may also be based on someone’s association with people of another race, such as when an employer discriminates against a white employee because she married someone of another race.
To the extent that people of different races have different skin colors, race and color discrimination may overlap or be related. However, discrimination may be based on color alone and include discriminating against a person because of the person’s pigmentation, complexion, tone, or shade of skin color. It may also include discrimination between different races or ethnicities or discrimination within the same race or ethnicity.
Title VII also prohibits discrimination based on national origin, which is similar to race and color discrimination but different, and can be more challenging to prove. Discrimination based on national origin can be a combination of one or more aspects of how you identify, including your race, ethnicity, language, country of origin, or ancestry. It can also include any group of people with whom you are associated or any specific ethnic group to which you belong. National origin discrimination could include discriminating against a person because he is Mexican-American, because he is from a particular Chinese immigrant community, or because he is from Africa. Or it could be simply because he has dark skin and a thick accent. Whatever the case, the law provides strong tools to combat race, color, and national origin discrimination, and Hall & Lampros employment discrimination attorneys are ready to consult with you if you believe have been a victim.
Types of Discrimination based on Race, Color, or National Origin
There are many ways in which employees are discriminated against because of race, color, or national origin, including but not limited to hiring, promotion, racial harassment or hostile work environments, and termination or wrongful discharge.
Hiring and Promotions
Employers often refuse to hire applicants because of race, color, or national origin. If a job application requests information about your race or national origin—or information that would tend to suggest your race or national origin—and if people of your race or national origin are not fairly represented in the workforce—it may be because the employer is discriminating. While employers often have valid reasons for asking for this information because of affirmative action programs, they should use prevent hiring and promotional decision makers from considering or relying on this information in choosing candidates.
In order to prove discrimination in hiring or promotions, an applicant must show that she or he is a member of a particular race or of a certain color or national origin, was denied hire or promotion, and a person of another race, color, or national origin was selected instead. The employer may then argue that the other applicant was chosen because of better qualifications, and the employee challenging the hiring or promotion decision as discriminatory must generally show that his qualifications were so superior to those of the chosen applicant that no reasonable person in the exercise of impartial judgment could have selected the person who was hired or promoted.
Racial Harassment or Racially Hostile Work Environments
Racial harassment that creates a racially hostile work environment is prohibited by both Title VII and 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and employers who violate these laws may be liable for large, potentially unlimited damages awards. In order to bring a successful racially hostile work environment claim, you will need to prove the following elements:
- You were subjected to unwanted or unwelcome harassment;
- The harassment was based on your race;
- The harassment was sufficiently serious to create a hostile work environment;
- There is a legal basis for holding the employer liable for the racial harassment.
The Conduct Was Unwelcome
You will need to show that you did not welcome the conduct you identify as being racial harassment, which means that it was not solicited, invited, or encouraged. One of the most important steps you can take to stop racial harassment and be able to pursue a claim later is reporting the harassment to your employer. Having a complaint on file sends a strong message that the racial harassment in question was not harmless joking or teasing, and prevents the employer from later claiming that it did not know you were being harassed.
The Conduct Was Based on Your Race
You will need to show that the conduct you identify as racial harassment would not have occurred if you had not been the race that you are. If, for example, you are Black and another employee uses the n-word, makes derogatory remarks or jokes about Black people, or tries to intimidate or threaten you and not employees of other races, this demonstrates that the harassment is based on your race.
The Conduct Was Sufficiently Serious
The conduct that you identify as racial harassment must be sufficiently serious, or “severe or pervasive,” to effectively change the terms of your employment. Several factors are relevant to this determination, including:
- The frequency of the harassment;
- The severity of the harassment;
- Whether the harassment was humiliating, physically threatening, or both; and
- Whether the harassment unreasonably interfered with your ability to do your job.
While hanging a noose in a workplace is a clear example of racial harassment, repeatedly making comments that are derogatory about Black people or constantly making jokes about Black people can also create a racially hostile work environment. Other acts of racial harassment might include forwarding emails with offensive jokes about Black people or promoting the views or comments of racists, or making veiled or implicit threats to Black people.
There Is a Basis for Your Employer’s Liability
Being racially harassed on the job is not enough to prevail on a racial hostile work environment claim. You must be able to demonstrate that your employer bears some legal responsibility, such as vicarious liability, in the matter. For example, if the person harassing you was another employee and you did not report the harassment, the employer could avoid liability. But if you reported the harassment and the employer failed to take appropriate corrective action, it would be liable for the harassment.
Additionally, if the person harassing you was a supervisor and the harassment led to a significant change you in status at work, the employer will be liable. Such changes can include losing a promotion or benefits, being demoted, or being fired.
Racial harassment on the job can have serious financial consequences – in addition to being emotionally scarring – and you can seek compensation for both.
Another form of race, color, or national origin discrimination is wrongful discharge, or termination from your job. Like other types of discrimination, an employee who alleges wrongful discharge must typically prove certain elements first, including that she is a member of a particular race or of a certain color or national origin, that she was qualified for her job, was fired, and was replaced by a person of another race, color, or national origin or otherwise treated worse than someone in one of those groups.
Once an employee establishes this threshold showing, the burden shifts to the employer to articulate what is referred to as a “legitimate non-discriminatory” reason for the termination. At this stage, employers often falsely claim that an employee performed poorly, violated work policies, or engaged in other misconduct, all in an effort to cover up discrimination. And that is the employee’s burden of proof in court—to prove that the employer’s reason for the adverse employment action is “pretext” for unlawful discrimination.
Proving an employment discrimination case with circumstantial evidence can be very difficult. Many times employers hide the truth and defense lawyers attempt to keep the employee from developing the evidence they need to be able to present their case to a jury at trial. But Hall & Lampros employment discrimination attorneys are experienced not only in employment law but also in proving cases at trial.
Discuss Your Case with an Experienced Atlanta Employment Law Attorney Today
If you are the victim of race, color, or national origin discrimination or national origin discrimination on the job, it is a serious legal matter that the experienced Atlanta employment discrimination attorneys at Hall & Lampros, LLP can help make right. Because this kind of discrimination can directly affect your career and your earning potential, don’t wait, contact us at 404-876-8100 or submit a confidential inquiry for a free consultation.