If you have suffered illegal discrimination under Title VII, you may be entitled to reinstatement in your job; back pay for lost wages; front pay for future lost wages; compensatory damages; punitive damages; and litigation costs and attorney fees.
As with all legal claims, deadlines are crucial. A charge of discrimination is filed with the EEOC or state or local Fair Employment Protection Agency. To be timely, it must be filed within either: 300 calendar days after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred if it occurred in a state with a FEPA; or 180 days after the alleged unlawful practice occurred in other states.
What counts as Title VII race discrimination?
Racial discrimination in employment can arise in numerous scenarios. Because of their race, employees may be denied promotions; paid less for equal work; disciplined more harshly than others of a different race; fired; or refused employment. Title VII prohibits these occurrences. The law also prohibits the creation or toleration of an environment that’s hostile to employees of a certain race, or policies that have a disparate impact on employees of different races.
How does the law apply before I’m employed — in a job interview, for instance?
In general it is inappropriate and illegal for an employer to question a job applicant about race, color, or national origin — or to show bias in hiring. For instance, an interviewer should not make comments such as:
- Your skin is a beautiful color. Are you mixed race?
- Where do your people come from?
- That’s an unusual first name. We don’t have many employees with names like that.
If an interviewer says something like that, you may want to ask him/her to repeat it so that you’re sure what was said. The interviewer may realize the error and move on. If not, record what happened as soon as possible after the interview.
I understand that my boss and co-workers should not be making racist comments or jokes. What are some more subtle signs of racial discrimination?
Even comments that seem like compliments can show that you are being treated differently — if a supervisor constantly draws attention to your hair, for example, even in a positive way, or if you get backhanded praise for being “articulate.” Title VII also protects workers from discrimination based on their personal lives. For instance, an employer may not discriminate against you based on the race of the people you hang out with — or the skin color of a spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend. If it’s typical to display a photo of your spouse at work, for instance, but you feel intimidated from doing so yourself, that may indicate a hostile work environment.
If I face racial harassment or discrimination, what should I do?
In general, it’s a good idea to keep a detailed log of incidents that you believe show racial bias in your workplace. Determine your employer’s policy for reporting such events, and see whether it can help the situation. If you are unsure whether you will be treated fairly, consult with an attorney to make sure you preserve your rights.