Once America was “discovered” by Europeans, racial discrimination got a foothold in the United States, beginning with the savage mistreatment of Native Americans and continuing through centuries of enslavement of African-Americans. Today, unfortunately, although many civil rights have been fought for and legally won, racial discrimination continues, albeit more subtlely, in various aspects of our culture, including employment. Not only African-Americans, but any people “of color” may be discriminated against simply because of the shade of their skin, their facial features, or the texture of their hair. Racial discrimination at the workplace consists of making distinctions, demonstrating preference, or restricting or excluding employees based on their racial characteristics rather than on their credentials or level of skill.

At Tand & Associates we work on both sides of the aisle to combat racial discrimination, assisting employees who suffer the indignity and injustice of such discrimination and helping employers to establish regulations to prevent it from occurring in the first place.

Racial Discrimination in the Workplace Is Illegal

Of course, not all places of employment are racially discriminatory, but it is essential to remember that those that do discriminate are breaking both New York State and federal laws. As far as federal laws are concerned, those who face racial discrimination are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as well as by a number of more recent acts protecting voting rights, ability to obtain credit, and fair housing, such as getting a rental apartment in NYC. While Title VII protects employees in companies that employ 15 or more people, New York State Human Rights Law goes even further, protecting employees from racial discrimination in all companies with four or more employees.

Title VII was written to protect against racial discrimination that manifests itself by :

  • Failing to hire an employee based on race
  • Disciplining or firing an employee based on race
  • Paying an employee less or proving fewer benefits based on race
  • Failing to offer equal training opportunities or job assignments based on race
  • Failing to provide opportunities for advancement or promotions based on race
  • Classifying or segregating employees or applicants by race
  • Demoting, laying off or firing based on racial considerations

Employment agencies and labor unions are held to the same anti-discrimination standards as individual employers and large corporations.

When Bigotry Masquerades as “Neutrality”

At times, employers who are dishonest as well as biased make rules that will affect those of one race more than another with the intention of discriminating without being held accountable. An example of this type of shenanigans is an employer who has a “no beard” policy, knowing full well that this policy discriminates against African-American men who are much more prone to severe shaving bumps (a skin condition known medically as pseudofolliculitis barbae).

If you feel you have been treated unfairly at the workplace, you should contact an attorney who specializes in employment law and is knowledgeable about up-to-date federal and New York State anti-discrimination laws. Contact Tand & Associates to explore your options; you can rest assured you will be treated with concern and respect. Don’t allow yourself to be victimized. The law is on your side.

The Difference Between Discrimination and Harassment

Both of these practices stem from deep-seated prejudice. The difference between them is how personally focused they are. An employer who promotes only white employees to executive positions is discriminating. One who makes a racially tinged derogatory comment to a particular employee is harassing that person. Harassment directed at individuals may consist of racial slurs, racially charged comments or taunts, inappropriate jokes, insults, displays of offensive posters, cartoons or symbols. While in many cases an employee may be subjected to both harassment and discrimination, in some situations there is more of one than the other. In any case, either can make the workplace toxic, intolerable to the person being targeted.

Who Is Harassing or Discriminating?

You may be discriminated against by your supervisor, a co-worker, a client, or even a customer. In any case, you should report the offensive behavior to Human Resources or upper management, assuming these people are not the source of the problem. If the bad influences come from the top of the food chain, or if no one takes action to remedy the situation, you should definitely contact one of our competent attorneys.

You should collect whatever data pertains to your case of racial discrimination. Try to keep a diary of troublesome events, when, where, and with whom they have taken place. Save any memos or emails that are evidence of discrimination or in which you have complained of unfair treatment. Also save any written responses to such complaints.
If you have suffered the indignity of being subjected to racial slurs or offensive comments, write them down. If you have been harassed with pictures of inflammatory symbols (like nooses or burning crosses) or have seen repulsive cartoons on the bulletin board, keep them, or take pictures of them, as evidence of the vile environment you’ve been working in. Being proactive in this way will bolster your case. In the same vein, if someone who has less experience and ability than you do, but whiter skin, has been promoted over you, you may be able to make a case that you have been discriminated against.

Even though a great deal of discrimination may me kept well undercover, there are ways of identifying discrimination that an employer tries to keep discreet. This is particularly true if you have witnesses to what has taken place, or if others have had similar experiences to you, demonstrating a pattern of ongoing racial discrimination.

Though it is rare for an employer to declare or admit to racial bias, statistical data may be clear evidence of a trend. For example, if there are no black employees doing work that involves client contact, or no African-Americans promoted past a certain level in the company, in spite of their skill levels and credentials, it may be possible to show discriminatory intent in a court of law. Your attorney will have the ability to gather such statistical records to bolster your case.

What Is Necessary To Prove Racial Discrimination

In order to present a prima facie case of racial discrimination, you have to prove the following:

  1. You are in a protected class, in this case African- American or otherwise dark-skinned.
  2. You are qualified for the job you are applying for, or hold, and are performing it, or can perform it, satisfactorily.
  3. You were not hired, denied benefit or promotion, demoted or terminated because of your race.
  4. The person who was hired or received benefits in your place was of a different race, or the company continued to search for qualified applicants even though you were fully qualified for the job.
Once you present such evidence, the employer must produce evidence that there was a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the decision against you, such as that you lacked a specific license or a particular skill set needed for the job. It will be your attorney’s job to prove that the employer’s claims are either untrue or only a pretext for racial discrimination. He or she will show, for example, that the person hired and promoted had less education or experience than you and/or point to statistical data proving that the company in question has never hired, or promoted, an African-American to a managerial position.
It is clear that racial discrimination is still far too common in the United States — even in New York State. As a matter of fact, New York remains one of the most racially segregated states in much of its housing and in too many of its schools, not to mention in some of its workplaces. The battle to end racial discrimination is still active here, and Tand & Associates is very much a part of the process. Our team is dedicated to using all legal tools in our belts to get you the fair treatment you are entitled to, in spite of the challenges involved, whether you are an employee who has been mistreated or an employer looking to prevent discrimination in your workplace. Whichever side of the table you’re on, we will support you strongly. If you have experienced the pain of racial discrimination, we will help you explore settlement options with your employer, or, if necessary, take your case to court. If you are a conscientious employer looking to avoid discrimination at your workplace, we will assist you in establishing policies that will prevent such misconduct and protocol to handle any incidents of discrimination that arise.