One of our nation’s most treasured beliefs—“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”—exists at the heart of the Constitution’s guarantee that no state shall deny any person the equal protection of the laws. Nowhere is the guarantee of equality more important than in the workplace. Working men and women have a basic right to earn a living in a workplace free from discrimination. Unfortunately, race discrimination remains far too common in our country. In 2018 alone, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) received no fewer than 24,600 charges alleging race-based employment discrimination.
The Harmful Consequences of Race Discrimination in the Workplace
Race-based employment discrimination is harmful in a variety of ways. The most obvious form of harm is economic in nature. Victims of discrimination may be paid less for performing the same work as similarly situated coworkers. Discrimination victims may receive fewer opportunities to advance their career, and they may find themselves suddenly out of a job and unable to pay their bills. Additionally, employment discrimination marginalizes and dehumanizes its victims, which can lead to serious physical and psychological consequences. An employer’s discriminatory practices can also harm the community in which it operates by contributing to higher unemployment rates, poverty levels, crime rates, and civil unrest. Employment discrimination stifles innovation by rewarding employees on the basis of race rather than merit.
The Law Prohibits Race Discrimination in the Workplace
Not surprisingly, a number of federal and state laws protect job applicants and employees from employment discrimination. At the federal level, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 29 U.S.C. § 1981 prohibit employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of their race or color. At the state level, the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act (TCHRA), which largely mirrors Title VII, provides employees in this state with an additional layer of protection from discriminatory employment practices.
The laws referenced above prohibit employers from intentionally discriminating against job applicants and employees on the basis of race (known as “disparate treatment”). Additionally, both Title VII and the TCHRA prohibit employment practices that are not intended to discriminate, but in fact have a disproportionately adverse effect on members of a particular race (known as “disparate impact”).
Race Discrimination Claims
To prove a race discrimination claim, an employee or job applicant must first be able to show that they have suffered an “adverse employment action.” An employee or job applicant has suffered an “adverse employment action” if they:
- were fired, laid off, or forced to resign from their job;
- had an annual employment contract that was not renewed;
- were demoted;
- were transferred or reassigned to a position that amounted to a demotion, such as a position that was less prestigious or provided less opportunity for advancement;
- were passed over or not considered for a promotion;
- applied for an available job or position, but did not receive it;
- requested leave from work, but their request was denied;
- experienced a pay cut;
- experienced an unfavorable change in their compensation;
- experienced an unfavorable change in their benefits;
- were deprived of earned compensation;
- were denied a pay increase to which they were entitled;
- were denied paid leave; or
- experienced some other negative change to the terms and conditions of their employment.
This list is by no means comprehensive. There are a wide variety of actions that may qualify as an adverse employment action.
Victims of race discrimination who wish to recover full and fair compensation for their harms and losses face a number of obstacles. For example, Title VII and the TCHRA impose short, strict deadlines by which claimants must file their complaint with the proper administrative agency before filing a lawsuit.
Proving race discrimination can be difficult as well. When confronted, an employer can simply say that they made the particular decision in question based on other factors that have nothing to do with race, even when that’s not true. Employers almost never admit that race affected their employment decision. To make matters worse, employees rarely have oversight or control over their personnel file. An employer can easily create whatever documentation it needs to make its discriminatory decision seem legitimate and justified.
If you suspect that you may have suffered some form of employment discrimination on the basis of race or color, it’s imperative that you take action immediately. Keep detailed notes and records of the actions taken by your employer, the individuals involved, dates, times, etc. Keeping detailed notes, copies of emails, and records of the events that transpire at work may prove to be very helpful down the road during an investigation of your claim.
Because of the complicated administrative process, short filing deadlines, and maze of employment laws that might apply to your case, victims of employment discrimination should contact the Wagoner Law Firm without delay for a free case evaluation.