Your job and career define much of who you are as a person. You take great pride in your work and dedicate your talents and energies to it. Your employer should reciprocate your efforts with fair compensation and fair treatment. You should not have to put up with racism in the workplace. Such bigotry is not only morally reprehensible, it is against the law.
The 1964 Civil Rights Act forbids any organization to discriminate against employees on the basis of race. If this is happening in your company, if you have been underpaid, harassed, denied promotion, denied career development, denied employment, or otherwise mistreated because you are a person of color, then you should hold them accountable. You should hire a racial discrimination lawyer to help you with the case.
What Constitutes Racial Discrimination?
There are popular yet misguided notions of what constitutes racial discrimination. Many people believe that racism in the United States went away at the end of the 1960s, that most white people do not hold racist beliefs, and that in most instances everyone has the same opportunity to advance in society. This is simply not the case. Racism is not about intentions; it is about systems and it still exists. White employees need not utter racial slurs for racial discrimination to be present in the workplace. In fact, the most pernicious forms of racial discrimination exist under rather benign-looking and seemingly race neutral behaviors and policies.
Here are a few examples of racial discrimination in the workplace:
1. Wrong-headed thinking leads to inappropriate comments
Those who are skeptical of the claim that racism persists in America are correct about one thing. Very few white people go around making racially charged derogatory comments about people of color. However, that doesn’t stop them from wrong-headedness on matters of race, which often leads to the utterance of racially offensive comments.
If a colleague has made general assumptions about your racial group based on your individual actions, beliefs, or performance, you have every right to be offended and to say something about it. You should never have to be subjected to other micro-aggressions such as jokes or comments about black or brown peoples’ hair, physique, intellect, or work ethic. And you should take any comments about how articulate you are as the insult that it is.
These may seem minor things to white people. But if you are in an environment in which you constantly hear such comments it will demoralize and wear you down after a while.
2. The insidiousness of “color blind” recruiting
Many companies claim that they are color blind in their recruiting and hiring methods, when in fact they are not. Again, no one has to publish their intention to recruit and select mostly white people for jobs—especially the higher paid ones. All they need do is recruit at college campuses that are overwhelming white or entertain recommendations from exclusively white colleagues. This has the effect of racial discrimination without a single announced intent.
A company cannot refuse to hire someone because of their race. However, such refusal does not have to be obvious and emphatic. It can come in the forms described above, in which companies simply refuse to recruit from a personnel pool that contains people of color. If you work in a company that engages in such practices, then you should work with an employment attorney to make a case against them.
3. Does everyone have a mentor?
Racial discrimination can also come in the form of training, mentorship, and development. Everyone knows that the only way to rise to the top of a company is to have a senior person take you under their wing, show you how the business runs, and introduce you to people who can help you along. If the white employees in a company are mentored and the persons of color are left to their own devices, then the former will have an advantage—owing to racial discrimination, not individual effort.
4. Check your grooming standards
It is perfectly legitimate for companies to establish rules and regulations concerning grooming. But such rules cannot privilege one racial group over another. For example, it is illegal to maintain a no beard policy because many African American men have a skin condition that makes it impossible for them to shave. Likewise, you cannot maintain grooming standards for women that shows favor to those who are white or have straight hair.
Why You Must Confront Racism
If you are like most people, the last thing you want to do is cause trouble and controversy. You don’t want to throw your place of business into upheaval. You want to do your job, get along with your colleagues, and then go home to your family and friends. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. If you see racism at work in the way that your company hires, develops, promotes, and fires people, then you must say something. Not only is it the right thing to do ethically and legally; it is the only way to ensure that you and people who look like you are fairly compensated and rewarded for the time, talent, and energy you have put into the organization.
You must also speak up if you must come everyday to a racially hostile work environment. Being in such an environment will reduce your productivity. It will hinder your performance, which may in turn keep you from advancement opportunities.
You should not have to put up with any of this, and a California racial discrimination attorney can help you get justice.
How to Act Against Racial Discrimination
If you believe that you work for reasonable people who may not see the racist structures and systems in their organization, you may be able to deal with the issue informally. However, you are never obligated to go out on a limb if you are not comfortable. If someone has made a racially insensitive comment to you, it may be a good thing to take them aside and point out their wrongheadedness. But again, you need not put yourself out there if you feel uncomfortable.
If you do not believe racial discrimination in your workplace can be dealt with informally or through a company-based grievance procedure, you can go to an independent agency. If the racism in your company is especially egregious or you have been denied employment in a company because it has racist hiring procedures, then you should hire a racial discrimination lawyer.
The first thing that you will need to do is send an inquiry online to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The employment attorney you hired will help you do this. A representative of the agency will interview you. If your complaint is legitimate, then you will be invited to file a Charge of Discrimination through the EEOC Public Portal. You must do so within 60 days.
The EEOC will then investigate your charges. If they can substantiate them, then they will issue a report. This report will be used by your California racial discrimination attorney to pursue a lawsuit against the company.
West coast employment lawyers know how to handle cases like these. West coast employment lawyers have the investigative, legal, and technical resources to get you compensation and justice if you have been discriminated against.