California and federal laws prohibit racial discrimination at the workplace. Although racial discrimination can occur in different forms and can be hard to identify, it happens when a person is treated differently from other individuals due to their color or race. This blog will focus on racial discrimination at work and what to do if faced with similar discrimination.

What is Racial Discrimination?

Racial discrimination occurs when a person is treated differently due to ethnicity, race, appearance, where they were born, color, or heritage. California law prohibits discrimination based on a person’s ethnicity, color, or race. According to the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against their employee due to their race. This could include:

  • Refusing to choose a person for training

  • Refusing to employ or hire

  • Discharging, bearing, or firing a worker

  • Discriminating an employee in terms, compensation, privileges, or employment conditions

National origin discrimination in employment is also considered a form of racial discrimination. This means treating an employee differently due to their country of origin or from a different ethnicity.

The law defines race as a person’s physical appearance like hair color, facial appearance, eye color, skin color, hairstyles, and hair texture. This includes calling another person by thor color. For example, black or white. Ethnicity refers to the cultural value of where an individual was born or where their ancestors originated from. Under California law, ethnicity is defined as a person’s national origin or place of birth. It may include:

  • Tribal affiliation

  • Ancestors

  • Association or marriage to a national origin group

  • Linguistic, cultural, or physical characteristics related to a national origin group

  • Name associated with a national origin group

  • Attending school or church associated with a national origin group

In the country, ethnicity can also refer to languages, countries of origin, or geographical regions. Racial discrimination can also happen to tribal associations and native Americans. Racial discrimination prohibitions are not limited to employers; they apply to employment agencies, labor organizations, training programs, and unions.

Both federal and California law prohibits racial discrimination against all aspects of hiring or employment. It is against the law for a hiring agency or an employer to do either of the following used on a person’s color or race:

  • Demote

  • Fire

  • Deny benefits

  • Payless

  • Refuse to hire

  • Force a person to quit

  • Harass

  • Decline promotion

  • Assign different roles

  • Deny equal pay

Examples of Racial Discrimination at Workplace

Although racial discrimination may be hard to identify, here are the most common situations that may help you identify if you have been a victim of race discrimination.

  • Harassment — If your co-worker finds it funny to tell jokes insulting minorities or Africans. If such comments make you feel uncomfortable, and when you request them to stop, they say you have no sense of humor. Your boss asks you to ignore him and take no disciplinary action against them for their discrimination.

  • Job classification — You have been working at a company for eight years, your responsibilities have increased with time, but your salary and job description remain the same. On the other hand, your white workmates have adjusted their salary and job descriptions to match their responsibilities.

  • Pay — You work your way up from a low position to a higher position. Later a white employee with lower qualifications and experience is hired, and you realize that he is paid more than your current pay.

  • Hiring/promotions/firing — You fail to get hired for a qualified job because their clients do not like working with African-Americans. Or you get hired without a reasonable explanation, and your white colleagues with less seniority and experience retain their jobs. You have worked at a particular company for years and received positive reviews. Still, every time you apply for a promotion, you are denied, and they are given to a less experienced colleague from a different race.

The Federal Law that Covers Racial Discrimination

Every person is protected against racial discrimination in employment under Title VII of the Civil Rights 1964. This statute makes it unlawful for an employer, union, or hiring agency to discriminate against people due to their race during promotion, distribution of benefits, firing, hiring, compensation, discipline, or other terms and conditions of employment. California law also prohibits race discrimination at the workplace.

People Protected Under Title VII

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covers local and state governments, private employers, and educational institutions with more than fifteen employees. It also covers labor organizations, employment agencies (both public and private), and labor-management committees that control training.

The Anti-discrimination laws protect any current worker of a particular company and job applicants. For instance, if you are a current employee and are denied promotion, fired, or paid low rates because of your race, you are protected under Title VII and can sue your employer.

How Title VII Works

The law makes any form of discrimination illegal in employment. Be it during promotions, hiring, firing, training, layoff, fringe benefits, and job assignments. Racial discrimination is classified into two major groups, which include:

  • Disparate Treatment occurs when an employee is treated differently due to their race

  • Disparate impact — This is the negative impact that results from racial discrimination

Discriminate Treatment

Discriminate treatment is a way of proving racial discrimination in employment. When an employee makes a disparate treatment claim, it usually shows that their employer treated them worse due to their race. However, they must prove that they were discriminated against because of their race. For instance, Michael worked as a receptionist in a five-star hotel and claimed that he was fired since he is Asian. However, the employer claims he was fired because a client complained about his services. If Michael can prove that the client complained about different employees who are not Asians and were not fired, he could win the case.

How to Prove a Disparate Treatment Claim

The first step of proving a disparate treatment claim is presenting evidence to convince the jury or judge that there was a form of discrimination. This is also referred to as presenting a “prima facie.” If the employee presents the prima facie case, the employer should state a practical nondiscriminatory reason for their acts. After the employer issues their statement, the employee is expected to prove pretext; the employer lied about their acts to cover their discriminatory acts.

The Prima Facie Case

An employee must use facts to prove a prima facie case of disparate treatment discrimination. If you can present direct evidence, that could be enough to sue your employer. For instance, if an employer only hires American waitresses or has said they can promote or increase salaries for African American employees, that is direct prima facie evidence of discrimination.

There is a four-part test that the supreme court uses in prima facie cases of disparate treatment. They include:

  • The employee belongs to a protected class (e.g., an African American, Asian, a person from a different race)

  • The employee qualified for a job benefit ( applied and was met all the requirements)

  • The employer denied the employee a job benefit (e.g., promotion, hiring, or firing)

  • The job benefit was issued to someone not as qualified and belonged to a different race from the employee (belongs to the same race as the employer), or the job benefit remained available

The Employer’s Nondiscriminatory Reason

After proving the prima facie case, your employer must issue a valid, nondiscriminatory reason for their actions. The supreme court expects you to prove the discrimination, and your employer is expected to prove that their acts/decisions were not discriminatory. This means your employer has to provide evidence to prove that they did not discriminate.

Proving Pretext

After your employer has provided a valid reason for their decision, you must prove a pretext for discrimination. Note that this does not mean you have to provide proof for an illegitimate motive. Instead, you are supposed to provide evidence that questions the reasons provided by the employer making the judge believe that your employer had a discrimination motive—for example, applying the rules differently, shifting justifications, or remarks made by your employer.

Disparate Impact

Disparate impact is the way of proving the effect of racial discrimination at work. The laws against racial discrimination in employment apply to both intentional discrimination and the adverse effect on the people facing racial discrimination. Federal laws use disparate impact analysis to determine any illegal discrimination.

How to Prove Disparate Impact

When filing a disparate impact case, you must provide evidence that your employer’s practice, rule, or policy harms people of a certain race. The judge or jury will use objective criteria like physical requirements, degree requirements, and tests to challenge the evidence under disparate impact theory. Collegiality, performance, and impressions made at an interview may also be subjected in a disparate impact case.

After you prove that, your employer may defend themselves by criticizing your evidence (this may be by criticizing the statistics you provided to show the disparate impact). If your employer provides evidence of the business necessity defense, you still have a chance to win if you prove that your employer has constantly refused to adopt a better practice that has a low discriminatory impact.

How Can I File a Racial Discrimination Claim in California?

If you have faced racial discrimination in California, you can file your claim with a federal administrative agency, EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), or the state administrative agency DFEH ( California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Both agencies cooperate to process claims. In other terms, they have a “work-sharing agreement.” YOu do not have to file your claim with both agencies; one agency is enough to get your discrimination case off the ground.

The California anti-discrimination laws cover some employers not covered by federal laws. If your workplace has between 4 to 10 employees, you should file your discrimination claim with the DFEH and not EEOC since EEOC only enforces the federal laws that cover a workplace with more than 15 employees. Note that before filing a claim with the DFEH, you must reach out to the headquarters through their toll-free discrimination hotline before setting up an appointment.

What Damages are Available for Me After Filing an Employment Discrimination Lawsuit?

The damages available for you will depend on the severity of the harm caused. The most common available damages include equitable remedies, punitive damages, and money damages. Money damages from racial discrimination may include:

  • Benefits

  • Front pay

  • Emotional distress

  • Pain and suffering

  • Bonus payments

  • High income from a raise

  • Back wages

If your lawsuit is successful, it may result in equitable remedies. If your employer had fired you, the judge might order the employer to rehire you. You may also be able to recover the money spent with filing the lawsuit and the lawyer’s fees if you hire one.

Which Federal Laws are Applicable in Race Discrimination Cases?

There have been several laws passed to end racial discrimination in the workplace. Apart from the federal laws, local civil rights laws and state laws reflect the federal legislation and put an end to racial discrimination. Some of the influential federal laws applicable in racial discrimination cases include:

  • The fair housing act

  • U.S Code Title 42, Chapter 21

  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964

  • The voting Rights Act 1965

  • The Equal Credit Opportunity Act

  • The Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act

Do I need an Attorney to Help me File a Discrimination Claim in Court?

If an administrative agency has resolved your case, you may not need an attorney to file a lawsuit. However, if the EEOC or DFEH does not resolve your case, you may be required to take your claim to court. You may need an attorney to help you push your claim in court and to help you understand the possible options available for your case and the damages you are entitled to. Your attorney can also help analyze and gather the information required to prove your claim. Most attorneys prefer to file racial discrimination cases under state laws in state court. Note that a lawsuit filed under your state laws must be filed within a year.

Find an California Employment Lawyer Near Me

If you have faced racial discrimination at your workplace, we at Stop Unpaid Wages can help you file a lawsuit and help you gather the evidence required. Reach out to us today at 424-781-8411.