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Well-Known Supermarket Company Faces Race Discrimination Lawsuit

November 10th, 2020

More and more employers are being sued for race discrimination. While such discrimination is illegal, it can and does happen.

In the last few years, a national supermarket chain has faced several discrimination lawsuits. One lawsuit claimed that store employees, management, and customers contributed to a racially hostile work environment. Another individual claimed the company policies barred them from getting a promotion because of their race. The popular supermarket chain is also dealing with allegations about policies regarding racial messaging on clothing and that it racially profiles customers.

What Laws Protect Against Race Discrimination?

Various laws prohibit race discrimination in the workplace, housing, voting, when applying for credit or disaster assistance, and much more. For employment, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a landmark legislation. Title VII is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and prohibits employment discrimination based on race, religion, gender or sex, and national origin. It covers private employers, state and local governments, and educational institutions that employ 15 or more individuals. It also includes employment agencies, labor organizations, and similar entities.

In addition, Title 42 of the United States Code prohibits discrimination based on age, disability, gender, race, country of origin, and religion in various environments, including employment. Most states also have laws that prohibit race discrimination. Anti-discrimination laws apply to both job applicants and current employees.

What is Race Discrimination?

Race discrimination is treating individuals differently in the workplace because of their race or skin color. It is important to note that race and skin color are two different concepts. Also, a person can experience race discrimination by someone of their own race, but it is still illegal.

Title VII legislation forbids discrimination in every aspect of employment, including:

  • Hiring
  • Pay
  • Job assignments
  • Promotions
  • Layoff
  • Firing
  • Training
  • Benefits

It includes two broad categories of race discrimination:

Disparate Treatment: This is when a person is purposely treated differently because of their race. In a lawsuit, intentional discrimination must be established, and the individual must prove discriminatory intent by the employer.

Disparate Impact: This is when workplace policies or practices harm an employee in a protected class. These cases do not require a showing of discriminatory intent.

Examples of Workplace Race Discrimination

The following can potentially be identified as racially discriminatory behaviors in the workplace:

  • Lower starting salaries for minorities.
  • Not being hired or not receiving a promotion or other advancement as a minority, despite having better qualifications, excellent performance reviews, and distinctions, such as awards and seniority.
  • Being given a different set of interview questions or assessments than a non-minority worker.
  • Being assigned to a position because of race.
  • Being subject to a workplace that includes harassment or hostile behaviors, including derogatory conversations, comments, jokes, pictures, and displays.
  • A workplace policy that prohibits certain hairstyles associated with an ethnic or minority group.
  • A workplace policy that prohibits race-related messaging on clothing and accessories.
  • Assumptions based on stereotypes.
  • An applicant is not considered for a job because of an ethnic-sounding name on their resume or their address or country of origin.
  • A minority is reprimanded or fired for workplace behavior common among all employees.
  • A minority is given tasks or projects that are impossible to complete.
  • A minority is reprimanded for observing cultural or religious practices in the workplace that do not interfere with their work.

What are the Warning Signs of Race Discrimination in a Company?

It can be difficult to know when a company discriminates based on race, either intentionally or unintentionally. Most companies have strict guidelines against discrimination, and they also follow EEOC guidelines.

Not every employee, whether hourly or executive, plays by or understands company rules. Some bring their own biases into their jobs or overlook discriminatory behaviors in their departments and subordinates.

Though not conclusive evidence, there are some red flags to look for when ascertaining whether an employer racially discriminates:

  • There are not many minority employees in the company.
  • There are not many minorities in management or executive positions.
  • Non-minorities hold higher-profile positions among clients or customers than minorities.
  • Minorities serve in less-lucrative positions or are placed in racially profiled positions.
  • Minorities are disciplined or put on performance improvement plans more often than non-minorities.
  • Racially insensitive comments, jokes, or slurs are part of the everyday workplace culture, and those who use them are not reprimanded.
  • The company does not do business with many minority-owned vendors, suppliers, and other third parties.
  • The company does not have strong written policies against harassment and discrimination.
  • The company has a history of race discrimination lawsuits.

What is Discrimination by Association?

Employees have reported being discriminated against because they are married to a minority or belong to a group, school, religious institution, or other organization that is associated with people or a certain race or color.  The law prohibits this type of discrimination.

Why Do Job Applications Ask for Race and Ethnic Information?

An employer who uses such information as a basis for making hiring decisions may be found in violation of equal employment laws. However, for many companies, this information is used to provide data for the EEOC.

Companies with 100 or more employees must submit data, including employee demographics, to the EEOC each year. Employers provide general information on their employees’ race and ethnicity makeup, not personal information about each employee. In addition, many employers have safeguards in place that prohibit them from knowing a job applicant’s race or ethnicity when making employment decisions. 

Can Job Requirements be Considered Discriminatory?

This can happen in some cases. Employers must be certain that the educational or experience qualifications they are looking for do not exclude a certain protected class. For example, requiring a college degree for a position when a degree is clearly not needed could exclude certain classes from applying and therefore be potentially discriminatory.

How to File a Race Discrimination Lawsuit

The federal EEOC investigates job discrimination charges in workplaces with 15 or more employees. Most states also have agencies that enforce state discrimination laws. If one is facing race discrimination at work, they should know what steps to take.

The first step is to consult with a lawyer. It can be difficult to prove discrimination or to find direct evidence. A race discrimination lawsuit requires the following:

  • Employee is in a protected class.
  • Employee is qualified for a job or is performing it adequately.
  • Employee is denied a job benefit or subject to a negative job action, such as demotion, layoff, or termination.
  • Person that received the job or benefit was a different race, or the company continued to search for other applicants.

A lawyer who focuses on employment discrimination is the best place to start if one is considering a lawsuit. It is important to note that there are time guidelines for bringing a lawsuit, so starting sooner is better.

Suing for Race Discrimination

Every case is different, but employees or job applicants have recovered the following damages:

  • Hiring or reinstatement
  • Back pay in cases of salary discrimination
  • Promotion or other positive job change
  • Compensatory damages
  • Punitive damages
  • Fees and costs associated with the lawsuit, such as lawyer fees

A knowledgeable lawyer can help a victim obtain these damages.

Bucks County Employment Discrimination Lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C. Proudly Protect Discriminated Employees in the Workplace

If you believe you were discriminated against at work because of your race, contact one of our dedicated Bucks County employment discrimination lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C. today. Our lawyers help their clients get the justice and compensation that they deserve. For a free consultation, call us at 215-569-1999 or complete our online form today. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania, including Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County.

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