Racial Discrimination

Race Discrimination in the Workplace

Federal and state laws prohibit an employer from engaging in race discrimination in the workplace. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and other federal and state laws, it is unlawful to discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of his/her race or color in regard to hiring, termination, promotion, compensation, job training, or any other term, condition, or privilege of employment. Title VII also prohibits employment decisions based on stereotypes and assumptions about abilities, traits, or the performance of individuals of certain racial groups. Title VII prohibits both intentional race discrimination in the workplace and neutral job policies that disproportionately exclude or disadvantage minorities and that are not job related. See EEOC-Race-Discrimination-Fact-Sheet

Equal employment opportunity cannot be denied because of marriage to or association with an individual of a different race; membership in or association with ethnic based organizations or groups; or attendance or participation in schools or places of worship generally associated with certain minority groups.

Covered Employers under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Title VII applies to private employers, the federal government, state and local governments, labor organizations, and employment agencies. Title VII covers private employers who employ 15 or more employees in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year. Even employers with fewer than 15 employees may be covered, if the employer acted jointly with a parent, subsidiary or affiliated corporation, and the total number of employees at both companies is 15 or more, and the two companies have acted as a joint enterprise.

Title VII also prohibits labor unions and employment agencies from engaging in racial discrimination in the workplace.

Covered Employees under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Title VII prohibits race discrimination in the workplace against applicants for employment and employees. It does not cover independent contractors. The fact that an employee is called an independent contractor, however, does not automatically mean that he or she is actually an independent contractor. Instead, the courts analyze whether the worker is in business for himself or herself and whether the employer has the right to control the means and manner of the worker’s performance. Thus, even a worker who has been labeled an “independent contractor” may still be covered by the Act.

Further, other laws, such as Section 1981, prohibit racial discrimination against independent contractors. Thus, even if Title VII does not apply, an applicant, employee or independent contractor is protected against unlawful racial discrimination in the workplace.

Prohibited Race Discrimination in the Workplace under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Title VII forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.

Title VII also prohibits racial harassment in the workplace due to a person’s race or color. Harassment may include, for example, racial slurs, offensive or derogatory remarks about a person’s race or color, or the display of racially-offensive symbols. Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment. The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.

Title VII also prohibits a covered employer from retaliating against any applicant or employee who opposes a prohibited practice, files a charge, or participates or testifies in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under Title VII.

Race/Color Discrimination & Employment Policies/Practices

An employment policy or practice that applies to everyone, regardless of race or color, can be illegal if it has a disproportionately negative impact on the employment of people of a particular race or color and is not job-related and necessary to the operation of the business. For example, a “no-beard” employment policy that applies to all workers without regard to race may still be unlawful if it is not job-related and has a disproportionately negative impact on the employment of African-American men (who have a predisposition to a skin condition that causes severe shaving bumps).

Litigating Claims Involving Race Discrimination in the Workplace

In order to pursue a race discrimination claim, an applicant or employee must first file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It must typically be filed within a very short time frame (180 or 300 days) from the date of the alleged discrimination or retaliation.

The EEOC (or state fair employment practices agency – which is the Colorado Civil Rights Division in Colorado) will investigate the charge of discrimination or retaliation in the workplace. If the agency determines there is “probable cause” to believe that discrimination occurred, it will attempt to conciliate (or resolve) the claim. If conciliation fails, the EEOC may litigate the claim in limited circumstances. Otherwise, the employee may obtain the right to pursue his or her claims in court.

Remedies available under Title VII for Race Discrimination in the Workplace

If an applicant or employee prevails on a racial discrimination in the workplace claim, he or she may be entitled to the following relief:

  • Reinstatement, compelled employment, or compelled promotion;
  • Back pay;
  • Front pay;
  • Emotional distress damages;
  • Punitive Damages; and
  • Attorneys’ fees

The Denver labor and employment lawyers at Baird Quinn LLC have a long history of successfully representing clients in cases involving claims or race discrimination and/or retaliation in the workplace. If you have any questions regarding these issues, please contact one of our experienced Denver race discrimination attorneys. You may find additional information regarding our Colorado race discrimination attorneys at the following link.