Despite laws that protect people in the workplace, a recent Gallup survey found that one in four African American and Hispanic workers reported employment discrimination in the past year. More than 8,000 people responded to the web-based survey that was conducted in November and December of 2020. The survey found the following:
- Nearly one-quarter of African American and Hispanic workers reported discrimination in the past year, while just 15 percent of Caucasians reported the same.
- Thirty one percent of African American and Hispanic workers who were younger than 40 years old reported discrimination in the last year.
- Seventy-five percent of African American respondents said that the discrimination they experienced was based on their race or ethnicity.
This survey shows that race discrimination still exists in many workplaces, despite federal and state laws prohibiting discrimination.
What is Race Discrimination?
Race discrimination can take many forms. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the federal law that prohibits race discrimination. It also prohibits discrimination based on religion, gender or sex, age, and other protected characteristics. No person employed by a company, or applying to work for a business, can be denied employment or treated differently based on perceived racial, sexual, or religious characteristics. No employee can be treated differently based on their association with someone who has one of these protected characteristics as well.
Title VII also prohibits an employer from discriminating against any term, condition, or privilege of employment, including:
- Assigning work
- Providing benefits
Title VII applies to employers in both private and public companies with 15 or more employees, including the federal government, employment agencies, and labor organizations. It is also enforced by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Local governments will sometimes enact their own laws that extend protections to additional employees. For example, Philadelphia has made it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Are All Pennsylvania Employers Subject to Anti-Discrimination Laws?
Federal anti-discrimination laws apply to Pennsylvania employers with 15 or more employees, with the following exceptions:
- Age discrimination, this applies to employers with 20 or more employees.
- Citizenship status discrimination, this applies to employers with four or more employees.
- Equal pay for men and women, this is for all employers.
Most instances of workplace discrimination fall under one of two categories: disparate treatment discrimination and disparate impact discrimination. Disparate treatment discrimination is when an employer intentionally singles out applicants or employees of a particular race for less favorable treatment. Disparate impact discrimination is when an employer applies the same policy or practice to employees of a particular race that are more often affected by it.
What are Examples of Race Discrimination?
Each year, employers of all sizes find themselves the subject of discrimination lawsuits, whether the discrimination was intentional or unintentional. Examples of race discrimination could include instances where the employer does the following:
- Promotes only Caucasian employees to supervisory or managerial positions.
- Requires only job applicants of a certain race to undergo drug tests.
- Allows only employees of a certain race to deal with the public or certain customers or clients.
- Lays off or fires employees of a certain race first or more often, especially when the company is reducing staff company-wide.
- Offers lower starting salaries for women or members of a certain race.
- Hires Caucasians more often than protected minorities, even when the hired person is less qualified.
- Gives minorities a different set of interview tests or assessments than those given to Caucasians.
- Condones a workplace culture in which sexual, racial, or other discriminatory behaviors is not punished.
- Does not have strict policies against race discrimination.
These are just a few of the many examples of workplace discrimination.
What is Not Considered Race Discrimination?
If the lack of a protected characteristic is a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) for a particular job, an employer may successfully defend themselves in a lawsuit. Typically, if an employer can show a legitimate job-related reason for an employment policy, they may not be practicing race discrimination.
Title VII Also Prohibits Workplace Harassment
Employees who are members of a class outlined under Title VII are also protected against workplace harassment, sexual or otherwise. Harassment is defined as unwelcome conduct based on race, age, gender, and other protected characteristics.
Harassment becomes illegal when enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment. Petty slights, annoyances, and isolated incidents are generally not unlawful. To be considered illegal, the conduct must create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people. Offensive conduct may include the following:
- Offensive jokes, slurs, epithets, or name-calling
- Ridicule or mockery
- Insults or put-downs
- Physical assaults or threats
- Offensive objects or pictures
- Interference with work performance
The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, an employer’s agent, a co-worker, or a non-employee. The victim does not have to be the person harassed but can be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
An employee is encouraged to inform the harasser directly that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. An employee should also report harassment to management as early as possible to prevent escalation. A failure to notify the employer can adversely affect a discrimination claim.
Can an Employer Retaliate Against Me for Reporting Race Discrimination?
It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee who opposes discrimination in the form of a claim or lawsuit or participate in an EEOC investigation. A good initial step is to consult with a lawyer. A race discrimination lawsuit requires the following:
- The employee is in a protected class.
- The employee is qualified for a job or is performing it adequately.
- The employee is denied a job benefit or is subject to a negative job action, such as demotion, layoff, or termination.
- The person that received the job or benefit was of a different race, or the company continued to search for other applicants.
A lawyer who focuses on employment discrimination can determine whether or not there is a valid claim. They can also help a victim notify the employer and the EEOC and follow the company’s grievance procedures. An experienced lawyer can also ensure that procedures and timelines are followed. They can negotiate settlements, collect evidence, gather witnesses, and prepare for a court trial.
Although every case is different, employees or job applicants can potentially be hired or reinstated, be promoted, or experience other positive job changes. An employee may also receive back pay, compensatory damage, punitive damages, and compensation for fees and costs associated with the lawsuit.
Philadelphia Employment Discrimination Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Advocate for Victims of Race Discrimination
Enduring a job loss, demotion, harassment, or another negative experience while working because of your race is illegal. Our experienced Philadelphia employment discrimination lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. fight for the rights of harassed workers. Call us at 215-569-1999 or contact us online for a free consultation. 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.