Racial Discrimination and Harassment

January 29, 2019

Racial discrimination and harassment continues to be a prevalent issue in the American workplace. At times that discrimination can be explicit in nature, but more often than not it takes place in an implicit and discrete manner. Nonetheless, employment law in the Untied States has put in place many protections to offset any racial discrimination that takes place in the workplace.

The most significant of these protections comes from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Title VII originally enacted in 1964 as a response to the racial tensions of the time. Since then, Tittle VII has expanded in an attempt to remedy discrimination in the workplace.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Th Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC) is the federal agency that is responsible for enforcing nearly all employment discrimination laws in the United States, including Title VII. The EEOC has a substantial impact on the way employment and labor laws are interpreted throughout the country and is an important tool for employees in the workplace.

The EEOC was created in 1964 as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was formed has a safeguard for members of protected groups. The legislation protected individuals of these groups and sought to have the live free of discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age and disability. It was a landmark legislation that changed the scene for groups who were historically discriminated against.

Race/Color Discrimination & Harassment

According to the EEOC, “ Race discrimination involves treating someone (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because he/she is of a certain race or because of personal characteristics associated with race (such as hair texture, skin color, or certain facial features). Color discrimination involves treating someone unfavorably because of skin color complexion.”

The EEOC further states,  It is unlawful to harass a person because of that person’s race or color. Harassment can include, for example, racial slurs, offensive or derogatory remarks about a person’s race or color, or the display of racially-offensive symbols. Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, 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 adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).”

What Steps Should I Take If I am Being Racially Discriminated or Harassed at Work?

File an Internal Complaint

It is important to put your employer on notice if you are being subjected to harassment in the workplace. An employer cannot take any remedial action if they are not aware of the circumstances in the workplace. It is also important to make sure any and all complaints are in writing. If the situation arises to the point where you need to take legal action it is important to have documentation that your employer was aware of the issues.

EEOC Administrative Charge

If your employer is not taking any substantive action to remedy the harassment you are being subjected to and you are considering taking legal action, you must first file an administrative charge with the EEOC.

The EEOC will begin an independent investigation once an employee files an administrative charge through their offices. It is important to note that the EEOC may contact your employer or co-workers. Further, EEOC officers may make site visits to the workplace and conduct witness interviews. Generally, the average EEOC investigation take around 10 months. The length of an EEOC investigations depends on the complexity of the investigation, the size of the employer and the parties’ willingness to be cooperative in the investigation.

If the EEOC determines that there is reasonable cause to believe that the employee is being subjected to harassment and/or discrimination in the workplace, they will provide the complainant with a Right to Sue notice. This will permit the employee to proceed to court with proper representation. An EEOC investigation is necessary step prior to filing any sort employment harassment or discrimination lawsuit, otherwise your case will be immediately thrown out.