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What Should I Do if I’m a Victim of Racial Discrimination in the Workplace?

The United States has a long and fraught history of racial marginalization and exploitation. Comparatively recent historical attempts to push back and reverse this history have led to some state but mostly federal legislation meant to criminalize racial discrimination in various fields. The workplace is no exception.

Federal law forbids employment harassment based on someone’s race or color. This blog will explain the legal definition of racially motivated employment harassment as well as the first recommended steps to get redress if you’ve been discriminated against in the workplace. Please get in touch with a Marquette employment lawyer, and we will do everything in our power to make this situation right.

What is the Legal Definition of Discrimination?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 defines discrimination as denying someone employment, demoting them, firing them, paying them less, or acting less friendly and supportively than you otherwise would because of a specific protected characteristic. The United States recognizes race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, and some kinds of veteran status as protected characteristics. Discrimination would also include prohibiting employees from talking about their own pay, their coworkers’ pay, and the pay offered to job applicants.

Harassment, as included in the definition of discrimination, can refer to racial slurs, disrespectful and degrading comments on someone’s race or color, and symbols with a threatening history. When this harassment makes the environment around someone hostile or offensive, or when harassment is expressed through unfavorable employment consequences, it is discrimination in the eyes of the law.

How Do I Seek Redress after Experiencing Racial Discrimination?

The first step would be to file a Charge of Discrimination, or a signed statement saying that you were discriminated in your employment by an employer, union, or labor organization. If you know of a situation where someone has been discriminated against, you can also file on their behalf without revealing their identity, for their protection.

A Charge of Discrimination asks the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to investigate the case and take remedial action. Most of the laws that Congress has charged the EEOC with enforcing, minus the Equal Pay Act, say that a petitioner needs to file a claim with the EEOC before attempting a lawsuit.

What Kinds of Redress Can I Expect After a Racial Discrimination Claim?

If your EEOC claim is successful, you may have a wide range of remedies available to you. These are meant to make you whole, returning you to the situation you would have occupied had the other party never discriminated against you.

As such, you may be entitled to back pay, hiring, promotion, reinstatement, front pay, compensatory damages for pain and suffering, punitive damages meant to send a message and punish the other party for egregiously bad conduct, as well as attorney and court fees.

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