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Race Discrimination

Despite our country’s tortuous history with race, color and national origin equality, discrimination in the workplace based on these classifications still exists. Regardless of your race, color or national origin, you have a right to be considered equally by employers and the failure of the employer to do so is not only wrong, but also illegal. If you have experienced race discrimination, you are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA") and are within your rights to fight the unjust acts of your employer.

Since race, color and national origin discrimination claims have a very short statute of limitations during which you must assert your discrimination claim, it is important not to delay contacting an attorney. Failing to raise your claims in a timely manner will result in your loss of rights to sue your employer for its discriminatory actions.

What laws protect me against race discrimination?

The Civil Rights Act of 1866 was the first anti-discrimination law in the United States passed shortly after the Civil War. This law prohibited race discrimination in the making and performance of contracts.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Law of 1964 was the first federal law to address race discrimination in the context of employment. Pursuant to Title VII, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against any employee or job applicant for employment because of his/her race, color or national origin in regard to hiring, termination, promotion, compensation, job training or any other term, condition or privilege of employment.

The Civil Rights Act of 1991 amended certain sections of Title VII to strengthen the protection given to minority employees.

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA") also protects employees against race discrimination based on the employee’s race, color or national origin.

Who is protected under the law?

Title VII protects employees of all private employers, federal, state and local governments, and educational institutions that employ 15 or more individuals. Title VII also covers employment agencies and labor organizations. Title VII does not cover independent contractors.

Unlike the Title VII, the PHRA does cover independent contractors who are in a profession regulated by the Pennsylvania Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs as well as other private and public sector employees.

The Title VII protections apply to job applicants as well as current employees. If you are a current employee and have been fired, not promoted, paid at a lower rate of pay or received any other different treatment in your employment from other employees, you are protected under the law. If you are not hired because of your race, you are similarly protected.

Under Title VII, it is also unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee for his or her marriage to or association with an individual of a different race, color or national origin; membership in or association with ethnic based organizations or groups; or attendance or participation in schools or places of worship generally associated with certain minority groups. This type of unlawful discrimination is referred to as "Associational Discrimination".

Title VII also prohibits employment decisions based on racial stereotypes about abilities, traits or the performance of individuals of certain racial or ethnic groups. Title VII prohibits both intentional discrimination and neutral employment policies of the employer that disproportionately adversely affect minorities.

Can I be assigned to a particular kind of job or to a certain neighborhood or territory because of my race?

It is a violation of Title VII to limit, segregate or classify employees or applicants for employment based on race in any way that could deprive them of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect their employment status.

It is also unlawful for employers to segregate employees of a certain race, color or national origin or otherwise physically isolate these employees from other employees or from certain customer contact. Title VII also prohibits assigning primarily minorities to predominantly minority establishments or geographic areas.

Therefore, an assignment or placement selected because of your race, color or national origin that segregates you or negatively affects your pay, status in the company or ability to advance would be against the law. Yet, an assignment made for legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons that does not negatively affect or segregate you would not be illegal.

Is racial harassment the same as race discrimination?

Racial harassment is a form of race discrimination, and therefore constitutes a violation of Title VII. Although Title VII does not specifically use the words "racial harassment," federal and state courts have held that racial harassment is illegal race discrimination under Title VII.

How do I make a race discrimination claim? Can I sue now?

Before you file a race discrimination lawsuit in federal or state court, Title VII requires that you first file a charge of discrimination with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") or the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC") within 180 days of the discriminatory action. This strict time limit, often referred to as the "statute of limitations", applies to all charges of race discrimination. Failing to raise your race discrimination claims within that time will result in your loss of rights to sue your employer for its discriminatory actions. Since race discrimination claims have a very short statute of limitations it is important not to delay contacting an attorney.

When you file a charge of race discrimination with either of these agencies, you must allege all of the actions that you believe are discriminatory. Failure to do so may result in your losing the right to pursue those race discrimination claims against your employer with the EEOC or PHRC or in later court proceedings.

You can file a charge of race discrimination with the EEOC or PHRC by yourself if you are unable to obtain an attorney to assist you. However, it is recommended that you consult with an attorney so that you do not mistakenly omit essential facts and allegations of discrimination in such a charge, and by such omission, lose the right to pursue those claims against your employer. For more information and a more detailed explanation of the complaint process, please visit the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, website (http://www.phrc.state.pa.us/) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s website (http://www.eeoc.gov/)

The attorneys at Waldman Law Group, P.C. are familiar with the procedures and processes of both the EEOC and the PHRC and are willing to assist you in your filings with the EEOC or PHRC. Contact an attorney at Waldman Law Group, P.C. by telephone or the contact sheet to schedule a consultation to ensure that your legal rights are properly pursued with the assistance of sound legal counsel.

When can I bring a race discrimination lawsuit in court?

After you file a formal charge with the EEOC or the PHRC, your employer will have an opportunity to respond. If your charge of race discrimination is resolved with the EEOC or the PHRC, you will not have to file a lawsuit in court.

However, in most cases, neither the EEOC nor the PHRC resolves these cases, and you will have to decide whether to file a race discrimination lawsuit in court if you want to continue to pursue your employer for its discriminatory practices. If neither agency resolves your claims of race discrimination, the appropriate agency will issue what is known as a Notice of Right to Sue indicating that you have only 90 days to file a lawsuit with the federal court or Pennsylvania state court. If you do not do so, you will lose forever your opportunity to hold your employer responsible for its acts of race discrimination. Since race discrimination claims have a very short statute of limitations it is important not to delay contacting an attorney.

What types of damages are available for race discrimination claims?

Title VII remedies include:

  • Back pay
  • Differences in pay between your current pay and the pay you could have received if your employer did not illegally discriminate against you
  • Front pay
  • Pre-judgment and post-judgment interest on the back pay awards
  • Compensatory damages (i.e. pain and suffering or mental anguish)
  • Punitive damages (meant to punish the employer for intentional race discrimination)
  • Attorneys' fees and court costs
  • Employees may also obtain injunctive relief, such as reinstatement of their job, in appropriate circumstances.

If you feel you have experienced race discrimination, you probably have. Contact an attorney at Waldman Law Group, P.C. by telephone or the contact sheet to schedule a consultation to ensure that your legal rights are properly pursued with the assistance of sound legal counsel.