California employees are protected from discrimination and harassment based on race. Both the federal Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act make racial discrimination illegal.
Unfortunately, racial discrimination is still fairly common. In 2017, 28,528 charges were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging racial discrimination, and thousands were filed in California.
Below, we clarify how the laws apply and clear up some misconceptions that have grown up around racial discrimination in California.
Race Discrimination Laws Apply to All Aspects of Employment
Most people realize that it is illegal to fire someone because of their race. However, California and federal law protects against discrimination in the entire employment process, including:
- Pay and benefits
- Workplace opportunities
Harassment is Also Prohibited
Racial discrimination laws also protect against racial harassment. If jokes, comments, put downs, name calling, and offensive images about your race make your workplace hostile, then you can have a racial discrimination legal claim. The harassment must be based on your race, ethnicity, color, or national origin.
The harassment typically also needs to be sufficiently pervasive and severe, so a random joke or single muttered slur probably is not enough. However, if you are subject to repeated abuse, then you might have a claim. Also, if someone offensively touched you because of your race, then you probably have a claim.
Harassment can create a hostile work environment even if you are not the target of the harassment and even if your boss is not doing the harassing. Coworkers can harass other coworkers, and your employer might be liable if they knew of the harassment and did nothing.
All Races are Protected
Racial discrimination laws protect all employees, not simply members of minority groups. A white or Caucasian employee who is passed over for promotion in favor of a less qualified non-white employee might have a valid racial discrimination claim against their employer.
Related Concepts Like National Origin are Important
Race is a difficult concept to grasp. It often overlaps with other concepts, such as ethnicity, color and national origin.
For example, if someone refused to hire you because you are Hispanic, are they discriminating on the basis of race or ethnicity? If they refuse to hire you because you have Mexican parents, is this racial discrimination or ethnicity discrimination?
Fortunately, you don’t need to worry about that. If you’ve been mistreated because of who you are or where your family is from, California and/or federal law might protect you, because they prohibit discrimination on the basis of national origin, ethnicity, color in addition to race.
The Person Discriminating Against You can be the Same Race
Racial discrimination in employment is not limited to situations where a boss and employee are different races. For example, a black boss can discriminate on the basis of race against a black employee. The discrimination is still illegal, regardless.
Report Discrimination to Appropriate Agencies
Employees have a choice of reporting the discrimination to either the federal EEOC or to California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). In many situations, California law provides greater protections than federal law, so you might report it to the DFEH. However, you can ask either agency to share information with the other.
In any event, it is advisable to report discrimination to one of those agencies and exhaust your administrative remedies with them before you try to file a discrimination lawsuit in court.
Contact Us Today
Of all types of discrimination in the workplace, racial discrimination has proven among the hardest to stamp out. Employees who suspect they have been discriminated against should meet with an attorney as soon as possible to review their case.
At the Workplace Rights Law Group, we represent clients who have suffered employment racial discrimination. To meet with one of our California discrimination lawyers, please schedule a free consultation with us today.