Racial Discrimination in the Workplace

Racial Discrimination in the Workplace: What You Need to Know


Racial discrimination in the workplace is a very real problem in the United States. Sometimes it’s easy to spot – but other times, it’s subtle enough that you’re not sure it actually happened.

So how can you tell if you’ve been a victim of racial discrimination in the workplace?

Racial Discrimination in the Workplace: What You Need to Know

Unfortunately, in many cases, it’s impossible to prove that someone has been a victim of illegal racial discrimination. Unless an employer comes right out and admits it, or if the employer slips and shows discriminatory intent, it can be tough to zero in on exactly what happened.

However, there are times when it is obvious that an employer is discriminating against someone based on race. Some examples include:

  • A lesser-qualified person being hired over an applicant of another race
  • A lesser-qualified person being promoted over an employee of another race
  • An employer asking about an applicant’s race in contexts other than those that are legally acceptable (like affirmative action programs)
  • Hiring practices, tests or policies in the workplace that single out certain races

The definition of racial discrimination is treating someone unfavorably because he or she belongs to a certain race of people, or because he or she has personal characteristics that are associated with race. Those characteristics can include things like hair texture, skin color and facial features.

Racial discrimination in the workplace can occur across different races or when both people are the same race or color.

Obvious Racial Discrimination

The law doesn’t prohibit teasing, off-the-cuff comments or non-serious, one-time incidents. However, when harassment becomes so frequent or severe that it turns the workplace into a hostile or offensive place, it is illegal. It’s also illegal when it results in an adverse employment decision, such as someone being fired or demoted because of his or her race.

The discriminatory conduct can come from the victim’s supervisor, another supervisor, a coworker, or even someone who’s not employed by the employer, like a customer or client.

Some obvious examples of racial discrimination include:

  • The use of racial slurs
  • Offensive or derogatory remarks about a person’s race or color
  • Display of racially offensive symbols

What Laws Prevent Racial Discrimination in the Workplace?

There are a number of laws that prevent racial discrimination, but one of the biggest is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This act makes it illegal for employers to:

  • Fail to or refuse to hire someone because of race
  • Fail to provide benefits, promotions or opportunities to an employee because of race
  • Fire or discipline an employee because of race
  • Improperly classify employees or applicants by race
  • Pay an employee less because of race
  • Provide fewer benefits to an employee because of race
  • Segregate employees or applicants by race

California’s laws provide even more protection to employees. The Fair Employment and Housing Act, or FEHA, applies to public and private employers, employment agencies and labor organizations (unions). Under FEHA, it’s illegal for an employer with five or more employees to discriminate against applicants or employees who fall into a protected category – and race is a protected category.

A few years ago, legislators strengthened FEHA by:

  • Requiring employers to create anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies
  • Requiring employers to distribute written copies of their policies to employees in English and other languages that are spoken by at least 10 percent of the workforce
  • Requiring employers to conduct training regarding discrimination and harassment

Have You Been a Victim of Racial Discrimination in the Workplace?

If you’ve been a victim of racial discrimination in the workplace, you could be entitled to financial compensation.

We may be able to help you recover damages.

Call us at 818-230-8380 for a free case review. You’ll talk to an experienced attorney who will ask you questions about your case, as well as answer your questions about racial discrimination in the workplace and what types of damages you may be entitled to receive.


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