african american man in job interview

Proving Race Discrimination in the Workplace: What You Need to Know

By Tom McKinney
NJ Employment Attorney

Although racial equality in the workplace has gained a lot of strides in the last couple of decades, the truth is that many people still experience discrimination, microaggressions, and harassment due to their race in the workplace.

Whether it be overt, systemic, or institutional racism, all forms are against federal law, and people are protected from discrimination based on their race per the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). 

If you’ve been discriminated against at work because of your race, you may be eligible to file a complaint with the EEOC or a lawsuit for damages against your employer. 

Types of Racial Discrimination in the Workplace

Many employers and managers know that racial discrimination in the hiring and firing process is prohibited by law. This means that practices such as not hiring someone based on the belief that a certain race doesn’t have the skills to do a job are against the law.

However, just because a manager doesn’t say that race played a role in their decision to hire or promote someone doesn’t mean it didn’t.

There are a few common kinds of racism that many employees encounter.

Disparate Treatment

Treating one employee less favorably than others in the same position on a discriminatory basis is considered disparate treatment. For example, a business may claim it’s inclusive because its outside sales team includes sales managers of different races. 

However, suppose that the managers of one race are assigned to the worst territories, while the managers of another race get territories with the best customers. In that case, the poorly assigned managers could be victims of disparate treatment.

Another form of disparate treatment is how employees are reprimanded. For example, the company policy for being late to work is arriving more than five minutes past the start of your scheduled shift. 

A manager writes up the employees of one race for being six minutes late but doesn’t write up the workers of another race for being late as often. This is also disparate treatment, as the employees aren’t held to the same standard.

Racial Profiling

Profiling occurs in the workplace when a manager targets a specific group of employees due to their race or preconceived notions of how someone of that race behaves. They may single out workers of one race for being lazy or taking too long to finish their work while overlooking similar lacking behavior of employees of a different race.

Or the supervisor may apply neutral company policies differently to employees of different races. Firing a cashier of one race for having a shortage in their cash drawer but only reprimanding the cashier of another race for a cash shortage would be an example of discrimination in the workplace.

Proving Racial Discrimination in the Workplace

If you think you are a victim of racial discrimination, disparate treatment, or racial profiling at work, begin documenting everything. You will want to include:

  • The date, what happened, and any conversations that occurred
  • The names of any witnesses to racial discrimination instances
  • Whether others of your race experience the same treatment at work

The more documentation you can include, the better chance you have of building a strong case.

You may have the option of filing a complaint with the EEOC. A complaint may be filed if you:

  • Are passed over for promotion for a position you’re qualified for
  • Let go for a stated reason that should not have warranted termination
  • Are paid less than employees who have the same experience and skills as you, but are of a different race

If you don’t get a resolution in that manner, you may need to consult a lawyer.

A New Jersey Workplace Racial Discrimination Attorney Can Help

To successfully build a case of systemic, overt, or institutional racial discrimination against your employer, you need a dedicated and experienced employment law attorney on your side. 

The skilled team at NJ Employment Lawyers, LLC protects workers’ rights in New Jersey. Contact us today for a free case review.

About the Author
Tom McKinney is a skilled employment law attorney with New Jersey Employment Lawyers LLC. He has a track record of success in all areas of employment law, including sexual harassment, discrimination, harassment, wrongful discharge, whistleblower claims and hostile work environment claims. Besides litigation, Tom handles severance agreements and severance package reviews/negotiations for over 100 people each year. If you have any questions regarding this blog, contact Tom here.