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Identifying racial discrimination in the workplace

Growing up in United States, it’s said that if you work hard and give it your all, you will succeed. It’s part of the American dream, and so, too, is equality. In some dark periods of our country’s history, racial employment discrimination was overt.

Now, however, discrimination in the workplace based on race might be subtler and fly under the radar. Both state and federal laws ban racial discrimination, but the fact is it still happens in many forms today.

Anti-discrimination laws

The main laws that combat racial employment discrimination are in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The law prohibits employers from:

  • Refusing to hire someone because of race
  • Firing or disciplining someone due to race
  • Paying less or offering fewer benefits because of race
  • Not providing benefits, promotions or opportunities because of race
  • Segregating or otherwise classifying employees and applicants by race

Oklahoma law, too, prohibits discrimination over “race, color, national origin, sex, religion, creed, age, disability or genetic information.”

Spotting racial discrimination

Discrimination can be difficult to pinpoint, because much of it is subjective and depends on the employer’s intent. However, some aspects of racial discriminations are more evident than others. The U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission outlines several situations in which the law forbids discriminating based on race:

  • Hiring practices: Even if a hiring practice applies to everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity, it may still be illegal if it has an impact on people of a certain race and is not related to the job function. For example, a “no headwear” policy might have a negative impact on women of Middle Eastern descent who wear a hijab or Sikh men who wear a turban, even though that would not affect how they perform in the position.
  • Harassment: It is unlawful to harass someone in the workplace over their race or color. This can include using racial slurs, displaying racially offensive symbols or imagery, or making other derogatory remarks. The harasser could be the employer, a supervisor, a coworker or even a customer or client.
  • Work details: It is illegal to dictate work assignments, layoff, offer fringe benefits or provide less or different training based on race.

Get help

If you think you’ve been the victim of discrimination at your job because of your race, you may want to seek the advice of an experience attorney. He or she can help guide you through the situation and work to get you any compensation you may be owed.