Category Archives: Race

An Attorney’s Perspective on Race Discrimination in California Workplaces

Lately, our office has been receiving some calls from potential clients alleging race and color discrimination at their work place. Thus, it may be a good idea to do a brief overview of race discrimination in the work place. What is an employment lawyer looking for? What kind of case is worth pursing? Our main workplace discrimination law page can be found here. This page is a brief overview. The below video is a short and concise synopsis of the law in this area.

Race and Color Discrimination

Under both Federal and California law, an employer cannot discriminate against an employee for his or her race or color. Race is defined as any person who is identifiable due to their ancestry or ethnic characteristics. Interestingly, the law does not see race and color as the same thing. Rather, they are distinct terms as both are listed separately as protected characteristics under federal and California law. Thus, the color of an employee’s skin, and not his or her race, can be foundation for a discrimination claim, even if it is alleged against another employee or supervisor of the same race.

A good example of this is from the case Walker v. Secretary of Treasure, I.R.S. in which a light skinned African American employee was discriminated against by a dark skinned African American supervisor.

A lot of times, people may have the notion that race and color protections only apply to those groups that have historically been viewed as minorities. However, this is not the case. Both Federal and California law prohibit discrimination against white people as well, and any race for that matter, regardless of whether they are the majority of minority race. This is commonly called reverse discrimination. For example, an African American supervisor can discriminate against a white subordinate, just as a white supervisor can discriminate against an African American subordinate.

How does an employee show there was racial discrimination?

An employee can show that he or she was discriminated against due to race or color either by direct evidence or indirect evidence. An example of direct evidence is if an employee is fired for being African American, and during discovery, an e-mail is produced that explains that the employee was fired because he or she was African American. But this kind of evidence is rare and does not happen all that often in todays litigious culture.

Typically, evidence is circumstantial. All this means is that evidence indirectly points out that an employee was discriminated against for his or her race. An example of indirect evidence can take the form of witness testimony. For example, if an employee is fired by his or her supervisor for being African American, yet there is no direct evidence, the former employee can depose several workers who can testify that they heard the supervisor talk about how he dislikes the employee because he or she is black. So just because an employee does not have direct evidence does not mean he or she has no case!

What Kind of Case is Worth Pursing?

There is no good way to answer that. Each case is different. Generally, contingency lawyers like Mr. Robertson are looking for cases in which racial discrimination led to the termination of an individual. That way there is liability (racial discrimination) and damages (the employees lost wages). However, in some instances the client has not been fired, and still has a good case. It all depends and the best way to find out if you have a case is to call for a free consultation with an employment lawyer.

Unfortunately, discrimination in the workplace based on race or color is still prevalent in California and across the nation. We still get several calls per week having to do with race discrimination, whether it be by a supervisor or a co-worker. If you feel you are being discriminated against due to your race or the color of your skin, call an employment lawyer for a free consultation.

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Racial Harassment in the Workplace

It is unlawful for an employer to harass another employee based on that employee’s race. An employee can show that he or she is being harassed for race if the employee is a member of a protected class (in this case the protected class is race), employee experienced unwelcome harassment due to his or her race, and the harassment severely interfered with his or her employment as it created a hostile and offensive work environment. Racial harassment is very similar to sexual harassment, except the protected category is race rather than sex.

What is Racial Harassment?

Racial harassment occurs when there is racial or ethnic slurs, the distribution of racially offensive writings, and even treating a person differently and poorly because of that person’s race, and the harassment must be routine and repeated. But each case is different. Racial comments may be harassment in one case, but not in another case. You need to speak with an employment lawyer to find out if what you went through constitutes legal harassment.

The below video is all about hostile work environments (which includes race harassment). It provides a fantastic overview of CA’s law.

What Is the Employer’s Responsibility?

If the employee complains to the employer about racial discrimination or harassment, the employer has a duty to prevent further occurrences and remedy the harassment. If the employer fails to prevent it from happening again, then the employer may become legally liable for any damages that result. An employer is usually automatically liable if a supervisor is the one doing the harassing.

Race Harassment Example Case: Duffy v. City of Los Angeles

Here is an interesting case to come out the state court docket this year. Plaintiff was a Caucasian/white male who worked as a gardener for the City, the defendant. He was employed with the defendant for nineteen years. For the last several years of his employment, Plaintiff was experiencing racial harassment in the workplace for being white by his co-workers. On one occasion, one of his Hispanic co-workers told him that he hates white people and would never offer Plaintiff assistance in the workplace.

The harassment increased after Plaintiff was injured on the job. The defendant denied all of this and basically argued that it never happened. The jury unanimously found in favor of the Plaintiff for disability and racial harassment among other things and awarded the Plaintiff a gross verdict of over $3,000,000.

Duffy v. City of LA just goes to show that the laws protect everyone regardless of their race. At the end of the day, if you are being discriminated and harassed in the workplace, and you think it is because of your race or national origin, contact an employee rights attorney for a free consultation.

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