Your Rights and Recourse Against Racism in the Workplace in California

Racism in the workplace is insidious and often involves subtle yet oppressive comments, displays, and even decision-making. Because motives can be difficult to understand or interpret, it can be challenging for lawmakers to create universal rules that protect employees.

However, in California, there are a number of statutory and regulatory provisions that interlock with federal law to provide maximum protections for workers. At The Law Offices Of Jake D. Finkel, we frequently help recently terminated individuals and those who are the subject of workplace discrimination get justice.

Consider just a few of the ways that California law protects workers against racism in the workplace.

Starting with Federal Rules

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is charged with creating rules and enforcing laws against workplace discrimination, including charges of racial discrimination. Under federal law, racial or color-based discrimination is defined as treating someone differently in an employment context, based on the color of their skin or characteristics that are associated with a particular race. Examples of racial discrimination can include:

  • Passing over someone for a promotion due to their race

  • Not hiring someone due to their skin color

  • Withholding pay increases or favorable actions due to race

  • Paying less for the same job due to race

  • Any unfavorable employment action based upon someone’s race.

California Rules on Racial Discrimination

Much like the EEOC and the federal rules it enforces, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act provides direct protection to Californians. Under this law, things like advertisements, applications, promotional materials, human resources materials, screening and interview questions, and the choice to hire, fire, or transfer someone are all subject to review. Even the ability to take part in unpaid internships or training are covered by the law. When a company violates the law, the victim of racial discrimination in the workplace has options.

Where the employer is subject to federal rules, a claim can be brought with the EEOC, alleging racial discrimination at work. In addition to this, in many cases, victims of racial discrimination may be able to seek the following forms of recourse:

  • Money lost already due to the discriminatory actions

  • Anticipated lost income

  • Seek reinstatement in the position

  • Reimbursement of personal expenses

  • Financial damages for the emotional distress caused by discrimination

  • Attorney’s fees and costs

While there are a number of other types of damages that may be sought, these are the main ones that California law will allow. It is important to note that not all acts of racism are technically “discrimination” and actionable under this particular section of the law. Co-workers who are rude, use offensive language, or who behave inappropriately may be problematic, but they are not automatically “discriminatory.” It ultimately has more to do with how the employer responds to complaints. For instance, a co-worker using racial slurs is a big problem. However, if the employer swiftly takes action to stop the behavior, it likely would not be actionable. On the other hand, if the employer or supervisor also engages in the behavior, takes some negative employment actions against an employee, or does nothing to discourage or change the behavior, thus creating an adverse and hostile work environment, California law may indeed provide options for recovering compensation.

To learn more about your rights, call The Law Offices Of Jake D. Finkel today and speak with an attorney about your situation.