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Thursday, February 10, 2022

How To Prove Race Discrimination In The Workplace

You'd think after Black Lives Matter that people would realize race discrimination still exists. Still, many folks think we had a Black President, so that was the end of race discrimination. It can be difficult to prove race discrimination, but it isn't impossible.

How do you figure out whether you were targeted due to your race? Here are some factors to consider:

  • Comments: If your boss makes comments about race, that's direct evidence of race discrimination. Maybe they have made comments complaining about BLM. Or they've posted racist stuff on social media. It doesn't have to be the n-word or anything that blatant. Comments about "the hood" or other more subtle comments about certain areas or people can indicate racism. 
  • Different treatment: If you are selected as one of the employees to be laid off but less qualified employees of a different race are kept on, then that is also evidence of race discrimination. Same if you apply for a job. Let's say the position you apply for requires a certification. You have it but the White employee is working to get it. You're more qualified. Seniority can also be a measure of your qualifications. If you've been in the position for 5 years with all good reviews and the promotion is given to an employee of a different race, that could be evidence of race discrimination. 
  • Disparate discipline: If you are targeted for discipline for picky things that employees of a different race also do and aren't disciplined for, then that is another sign that you are being targeted due to race. Sometimes, you're given the option of taking a demotion rather than a layoff. If others are offered this option but the Black employees aren't, that could be race discrimination in itself. If you are terminated for something people of a different race have done with only a warning, that is evidence of race discrimination.
  • Harassment: If you are being targeted for harassment but employees of a different race are not, that is also evidence of racial harassment. If there are other employees of your same race under the same supervisor, are they also being targeted? 
  • Evidence: Remember, your own testimony is evidence. So are your notes. Chats, emails, voice mails, photos, printouts of social media, can also be evidence. If you have witnesses, ask them to write you a note about what happened if you think they will support you. Or if you don't feel comfortable asking, at least keep track of witness names and any contact information you have.
What to do? If you think you've been targeted due to your race, then there are some steps to take.
  • Report it: If it's harassment, meaning basically something that doesn't affect your wallet, then you need to report it to HR or management. Look in your handbook to see where it says to report discrimination. The Supreme Court says that if you are being harassed due to your race and don't report it, the employer might not be liable for discriminatory harassment. I suggest putting it in writing. Call it Formal Complaint of Race Discrimination. Then lay out in detail all the ways you are being singled out due to your race. Keep a copy of what you send. That way they can't deny later that you complained about race discrimination. Remember, say the words. Bullying and general harassment aren't illegal.
  • Keep good notes: Write down all the comments and ways you've been singled out. Make note of dates, times, and any witnesses. Keep copies of documents, text messages, emails, chats, and other evidence. Take them home or keep them in a purse or briefcase. Don't keep them in your desk or somewhere the employer can take them away from you.
  • Contact a lawyer: If you think you're being targeted due to your race, especially if you have been demoted, suspended without pay, or terminated, talk to an employment lawyer in your state
  • File with EEOC: Filing with EEOC is something you must do before filing a lawsuit under Title VII for race discrimination. Depending on your state, you have 180 days or 300 days to file. You might want to talk to a lawyer before doing so. EEOC can't award you money, but they do have a terrific mediation program, so if your employer agrees to participate it could settle there without the hassle of a lawsuit.
While proving race discrimination can be difficult, if you gather enough evidence and keep good notes, you are well on your way to proving your case.

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I appreciate your comments and general questions but this isn't the place to ask confidential legal questions. If you need an employee-side employment lawyer, try http://exchange.nela.org/findalawyer to locate one in your state.