This country has a long history of racism, and the state of California is no different. It has been built into institutions and ways of life. Discrimination based on race, however, is unlawful in many areas of our life, from housing to employment to public services and many other areas. Race discrimination persists, and so when it causes you harm, you may be entitled to file a claim and eventually a lawsuit.
At Lowry Law Firm, our race discrimination attorney in Los Angeles County understands what our clients have experienced and will use our resources to make sure you obtain the compensation and other remedies available to you in your unique case. Contact us at 818-932-4141 to schedule a free consultation today.
What Constitutes Race Discrimination in the Workplace?
California and federal law prohibits any type of discrimination based on a person's race. Racial discrimination in the workplace occurs when a current employee, or an applicant for a job, is treated unfavorably because of their race. Employees or applicants may also experience race discrimination because of a relationship they have with a person of a different race. It is also possible for a person to racially discriminate against someone of their own race.
Racial discrimination includes unfavorable treatment due to a person's characteristics that are typically associated with a particular race. This includes the color of their skin, the texture of their hair, and other physical traits.
Another related type of discrimination is color discrimination. Color discrimination occurs when an employee or applicant is treated unfavorably based on the complexion, or color, of their skin.
Keep in mind that many states offer more protections based on race and color. If you are in California, contact Lowry Law Firm to get a better understanding of our state's laws on race discrimination. This is also important because the process to address race discrimination in the workplace varies from state to state, too.
Types of Racial Discrimination in the Workplace in California
Discrimination based on race is rarely carried out in a direct, overt manner. Most employers will not tell an applicant they are not getting the position because they are Asian, Indian, or black. Most employers will not tell you that your co-worker who is white got the job because they are white. Race or color discrimination happens in less overt ways through what are known as disparate treatment and disparate impact.
Disparate treatment, often viewed as intentional discrimination, occurs when people of one race are treated differently than people of another race. For example, a store may hire both white people and black people, but only the white employees interact with customers while the black employees work behind the scenes stocking or packing products. Disparate treatment can occur in other ways, too, like giving better benefits to employees of one race over another race or reprimanding employees differently for the same poor performance or poor behavior.
Disparate impact can be unintentional and occurs when a facially neutral company policy, procedure, process, or requirement has an adverse effect on employees of a certain race or color. For example, an employer may have a policy prohibiting the hiring of people who have a criminal record, but that policy may impact black and brown people more than white people.
Examples of Race/Color Discrimination in California
While some types of racial and color discrimination are obvious, others are more subtle. Having examples of known unlawful race or color discrimination is probably one of the best ways to understand if, in your unique situation, you may be experiencing racial discrimination that is also unlawful. Below are descriptions of some of the more common ways people experience race discrimination in California.
Racial harassment remains pervasive in many workplaces. Harassment involves the use of racial slurs, racist jokes, and offensive messages by anyone in the workplace. Harassment must create a hostile work environment, meaning a single remark – even if harmful – may not constitute unlawful racial harassment.
Stereotyping occurs when the same characteristics are assumed in all members of a certain group. Personal differences are not taken into consideration. Generally speaking, stereotyping focuses on negative traits and is based on false beliefs and misconceptions.
As a type of stereotyping, racial profiling occurs when stereotypes about race drive an action that is taken for public protection, safety, or security. Race is used as a basis for suspecting or accusing a person of having engaged in illegal activity.
Associational discrimination occurs when a person is treated in an unfavorable manner due to their association with a person of a different race. They could be the person's spouse, other family members, or friends.
Racial prejudice occurs when a person has preconceived notions about someone based solely on their race. Due to these negative feelings, they treat the person as less than others.
While most racism occurs between two people of different races, it is possible for racism to occur between two people of the same race. Treating someone less favorably due to their race is still racism no matter the race of the person committing the unfair acts.
What Should Employers in California Do to Prevent Race Discrimination?
Employers should be proactive to prevent racial discrimination from occurring at their place of business. Following are some of the steps they can take to ensure this type of misconduct does not occur at their company.
Perhaps one of the most important things an employer can do is provide clear, inclusive training to all employees, from top leadership to anyone that works for the company. Training should be clear on what is, and what is not, tolerated. A company culture that embraces differences should be welcomed by all.
Also, training is not something that should happen just once or only when a new employee starts their job. It should be done on a regular basis, incorporating any new legal developments.
Use Neutral Criteria In Hiring
Employers should make certain that the criteria used in hiring new employees are neutral and are not unfairly biased toward a certain person or group of people. Criteria should be based on the duties and functions of the position. The pool of candidates for all positions should be diverse.
Establish Fair Standards For Promotion
Promotion criteria should be known to all employees. This also includes making all employees aware of when a new position becomes available. Criteria should be fair across the board. Promotions and raises should be based on an employee's performance of their job duties.
Zero Tolerance and Established Punishment Protocols
Leadership needs to be clear that discriminatory behaviors will not be tolerated, including what that constitutes and what the penalties may be for it. These rules must be enforced fairly and evenly with all employees. Also, when a complaint is made by an employee, the employer should have a protocol in place to prevent retaliation when a person complains about racial discrimination.
What Should Employees in California Do if Discriminated Against Based on Race or Skin Color?
Employees who have been discriminated against often feel embarrassed and angry, with good reason. But they are not without recourse. The following actions can help victims protect their rights.
- Keep a record. Employees who have been harassed or discriminated against should keep detailed records of the misconduct, including where and when it happened; a description of what was done or said; the name (or names) of the abuser(s); and the name (or names) of witnesses. Detailed notes are important. Potential evidence, such as emails, text messages, social media posts, photographs, and other evidence of the misconduct, should be preserved. If litigation occurs in the future, it is helpful to have the notes to jog memories and evidence to support the claims made.
- Report the discrimination internally. Employees should immediately follow the guidelines in their employee handbook for reporting harassment and discrimination. California employers have a legal obligation to take prompt, appropriate corrective action to stop harassment and discrimination, even while they investigate the allegations, and a further obligation to conduct an investigation. Note, however, that some employers--surprisingly--may violate the law by ignoring complaints of harassment and discrimination and, further, by retaliating against an employee who has reported harassment or discrimination, even if the employer's handbook states that the employer does not to tolerate harassment and discrimination in the workplace; encourages reporting; and states that all complaints will be taken seriously. If an employee doesn't report harassment or discrimination, however, and it continues, then the employer will likely blame the employee for not giving the employer a chance to stop the harassment or discrimination. In sum, reporting harassment and discrimination carries a risk, but so does not reporting it. Employees may wish to speak with an attorney even before reporting harassment or discrimination for advice on what to include in a complaint and what to expect from the employer in response.
- Consider telling someone the employee trusts inside and outside the workplace. If an employee who is the victim of harassment or discrimination ends up having to file a lawsuit, the employer's attorneys may seek to take a deposition from the employee's spouse, domestic partner, or significant other; the employee's roommates; the employee's best friend; the employee's co-workers; the employee's doctor; the employee's therapist; the employee's spiritual advisor; and other people close to the employee. The defense attorneys do this looking for complaints made as things happened. If they find nothing, they will likely argue that the harassment or discrimination didn't happen.
- Be a model employee. Some employers may retaliate immediately against an employee who has reported harassment and discrimination. If they do, the employee's case will be even stronger. Other employers may watch the complaining employee closely to see if they violate any workplace rules or guidelines in order to find a "legitimate" reason to fire or discipline the complaining employee. Once an employee decides to report harassment or discrimination internally, the employee needs to be a model employee.
- Speak to an attorney. If reporting the harassment or discrimination does not resolve the issue, the employee should speak with an attorney who handles harassment and discrimination claims.
In harassment and discrimination cases, time is of the essence. There are limits on how long an employee has to file a complaint for harassment. Determining when the clock starts ticking can be tricky. Further, you may have to file a claim with a government agency, such as the California Civil Rights Department, before you can file a lawsuit. You should consult a lawyer who handles harassment and discrimination claims to ensure all the necessary steps have been taken to preserve your legal rights.
Contact an Employment Law Attorney in Los Angeles County Today
Racial discrimination is illegal in the workplace, as it is in other areas of life – like housing. No one should be subjected to discrimination based on the color of their skin. At Lowry Law Firm, attorney Kent Lowry helps clients who have suffered harm because of racial discrimination in the workplace. To learn more about unlawful employment discrimination and to determine if you have a case, contact Kent either by filling out the online form or calling us at 818-932-4141 to schedule a free consultation.