You shouldn't have to experience racial discrimination in any workplace. Unfortunately, it can be prevalent in subtle and overt ways.
Racial discrimination is an infuriating, humiliating occurrence. It can also be confusing. You may wonder if someone's words or actions constitute discrimination. Or the person discriminating against you may try to pass it off as a joke.
The following are hypothetical examples of workplace racial discrimination. If you think you've been a victim of any of these, James H. Shoemaker, Jr., can help you. He has more than two decades of experience seeking justice for people whose civil rights have been violated.
Types of Racial Discrimination
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 identifies two broad types of discrimination:
- Disparate treatment: When people are intentionally treated differently because a protected characteristic such as race. In these cases, victims must prove the discrimination was intentional.
- Disparate impact: When a seemingly neutral practice has an unnecessary and negative effect on people of a protected class such as race. Victims in these cases do not have to prove the discrimination was intentional, just that it happened.
The Supreme Court case McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green is a good example of disparate treatment. The court found in favor of a black man who applied four times to positions he was qualified for, but wasn't hired.
Another Supreme Court case, Griggs v. Duke Power Co., is a good example of disparate impact. In the case, the company required applicants for all but the lowest-level positions to have a high school diploma and pass two IQ tests. That policy was not discriminatory by itself, but the Court found it disproportionately affected black people because of the United States' history of providing black people inferior educational opportunities.
What's the Difference Between Racial Discrimination and Harassment?
Harassment is a form of discrimination. It's broadly defined as unwelcome behavior — such as verbal or physical abuse — that happens to you because of your race, skin color, or national origin. Racial harassment comes in many forms:
- Verbal or written: Racist jokes, innuendos, name-calling, racially based comments about your body, and racial slurs
- Physical: Assault and inappropriate touching
- Nonverbal: Derogatory gestures, stalking, and interfering with work performance
- Visual displays: Posters, drawings, screensavers of a racist nature, racial slurs written on your property, and displays of things like hangman's nooses or swastikas
How Do I Report Racial Discrimination or Harassment?
Your first step should be to talk to an experienced discrimination and harassment attorney. They'll walk you through every step of getting justice. If you are a current employee of a company, your lawyer can help you report the discrimination to your company's HR department.
There are two reasons for this. The first is that your company should conduct a quick and thorough investigation and, if necessary, discipline the accused. The second is that, if your company ignores or retaliates against your complaint, they can now be held liable for how you were treated.
If you file a discrimination or harassment suit but did not report the conduct to HR, your company can claim it didn't know. Then, you may only be able to recover damages from your harasser, not the company.
You must also file a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or your state's employment office. This is a prerequisite for filing a workplace harassment or discrimination lawsuit. The office will investigate your charge. If it finds your accusations credible, it will give you a right-to-sue letter.
What Kinds of Damages Can I Receive In a Racial Discrimination or Harassment Lawsuit?
You can receive a number of damages, including:
- Back pay
- Front pay
- Compensatory damages for your emotional pain and suffering
- Punitive damages to punish your employer
Being harassed or discriminated against is traumatic enough. You shouldn't have to deal with the trauma of filing a complaint and lawsuit alone.
That process can be confusing and requires meeting tight deadlines and statutes of limitations. You need a fierce, experienced lawyer by your side to help you navigate that.
James H. Shoemaker, Jr., has more than two decades of experience seeking justice for victims of harassment and discrimination. He aggressively pursues cases against the biggest and toughest opponents.
He serves clients in Virginia Beach, Hampton Roads, Washington, D.C., and throughout the U.S. He can obtain pro hac vice admission to practice across the country. Call (757-223-4560) today to set up a consultation.