Race discrimination occurs when an individual is terminated, denied training, not promoted, given less pay, demoted, harassed or not hired based on his or her race. Race discrimination can result in heavy fines if an employee decides to sue, and many states have special agencies in place to manage race discrimination claims. Race discrimination can be either covert or overt—discrimination can occur even if it isn’t stated outright.
Race Discrimination Laws
A handful of laws have been passed that aim to end racial discrimination. Federal laws and state and local civil rights laws protect individuals. Federal laws that have the most influence regarding racial discrimination include:
- The Civil Rights Act of 1964—This act prohibits racial discrimination in the workplace.
- The Equal Credit Opportunity Act—With this act, creditors cannot racially discriminate against credit applicants.
- U.S. Code Title 42, Chapter 21—This act prohibits racial discrimination in employment, federal services, access to businesses and buildings and more.
- The Fair Housing Act—This act was put in place to prohibit racial discrimination in the financing, sale and rental of housing.
- The Voting Rights Act of 1965—This act, put in place shortly after the Civil Rights Act, prohibits racial discrimination in regards to voting practices.
- The Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act—This act prohibits those in relief operations from being racially discriminatory.
In terms of discrimination, color refers to complexion, pigmentation or skin shade or tone. A person can therefore be discriminated against due to his or her darkness, lightness or other color characteristics. Color discrimination is different from race discrimination, in the sense that the discrimination can occur between people of the same ethnicity or race in addition to people of different races or ethnicities. Title VII prohibits race and color discrimination of all people, including Caucasians; however, some courts maintain that a white person who claims race discrimination must provide more proof than simple circumstantial evidence. By contrast, with the Commission, all races must meet the same standard of proof in race discrimination claims.
Discrimination Based on Race-Related Conditions and Characteristics
Discrimination can occur based on an immutable characteristic that is associated with a particular race, and such discriminatory practices are in violation of Title VII. Such characteristics include skin color, certain facial features, and hair texture, regardless of whether or not the characteristic is shared by all members of that race. For example, an African-American can be discriminated against due to her kinky hair texture, even though not all African-Americans have kinky hair.
Discrimination can also occur when an employer limits a condition that predominantly affects a particular race, which is also in violation of Title VII. An example of such discrimination would be a policy that excludes those with sickle cell anemia from the workplace, since the condition mostly affects African-Americans. In order for an employer to enforce this policy, it has to be job related and a business necessity. Another example would be an employment policy that prohibits beards, as some African-American men are predisposed to having pseudofolliculitis barbae, or severe shaving bumps. Again, this policy would have to be a business necessity.
Protections of Title VII
Title VII is the section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that protects individuals against racial discrimination in the workplace. Title VII covers a variety of work-related issues, such as the following:
- recruiting, advancement and hiring
- compensation and other terms, conditions and privileges related to employment
- classification of employees and segregation
- pre-employment requirements and inquiries
In order to abide by Title VII, employers should refrain from certain practices, including asking an applicant his or her race, and instituting tests, workplace policies or hiring practices that single out certain races or have a greater effect on those races. Understanding Title VII can help employers avoid potential lawsuits against their businesses.
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