Race discrimination in the workplace still exists in Washington State and across the country. Sometimes, workplace discrimination is blatant. In other cases, discrimination is subtle. In every instance, race discrimination is illegal, unfair, and can seriously harm an employee’s financial and mental well-being.
At Sapphire Legal, PLLC, we have helped many clients recover compensation for race discrimination in the workplace. We focus our law firm on fighting for the rights of employees throughout Washington State. Proving employment discrimination in the workplace can be challenging, especially when employers go to great lengths to hide their discriminatory practices. If you have suffered race discrimination, our legal team can fight for your rights. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.
Federal, State, and Local Laws Prohibit Race Discrimination
Federal, state, and local laws prohibit employers from engaging in race discrimination. Employers cannot treat employees or job applicants less favorably based on race. Race discrimination includes harassment in the workplace based on race. For example, when an employee is the victim of racial slurs and disparaging racially-based comments, he or she may have a claim for race discrimination.
Federal Race Discrimination Laws
Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, and national origin. Title VII prohibits intentional race discrimination as well as neutral job policies that disproportionately exclude people of minority races. Title VII protects employees from race discrimination in recruiting, hiring, and job advancement. Employers cannot engage in race discrimination during all of the following practices:
- Advertisements for job applicants
- Job placement practices
- Job training opportunities
- Apprenticeship opportunities
- Job transfers
- Job promotions
- Employment benefits
- Wage determinations
- Decisions regarding employee discipline
- Termination decisions
Discrimination Based on Race-Related Characteristics, Conditions, and Color
Employers cannot discriminate based on an employee’s immutable characteristics associated with their race. Discrimination based on skin color, a specific facial feature, or hair texture violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This prohibition applies even when not all members of a certain race share the same immutable characteristics. For example, an employer cannot discriminate based on an employee’s natural African-American hair.
Title VII also prohibits discrimination based on medical conditions that affect one race predominately. For example, sickle cell anemia and pseudofolliculitis barbae (severe bumps from shaving) predominantly affect African-Americans. Businesses cannot have a policy that prohibits the hiring of people with sickle cell anemia unless doing so is a business necessity.
While Title VII does not explicitly prohibit discrimination based on skin color, the Civil Rights Commission and courts have interpreted the law to prohibit color-based discrimination. Color-based discrimination happens when an employer discriminates against an employee or applicant based on the person’s lightness, darkness, or other color characteristics.
Washington State Laws Against Race Discrimination
The Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) prohibits race discrimination in employment, service, credit, and housing transactions. The WLAD prohibits any time of discriminatory, race-based treatment of employees. The law also prohibits harassment of employees due to their race. Finally, the law prohibits workplace discrimination based on an employee’s color and national origin.
Additionally, Washington State laws prohibit employers or licensing agencies from asking questions regarding race in a job or licensing applications. Once the agency approves a professional license, the license cannot state the race of the holder of the license. Businesses who violate this law face criminal misdemeanor charges.
Malicious Racial Harassment is Unlawful in Washington
Washington laws also prohibit malicious racial harassment in all environments, including the businesses and worksites. Acts of malicious harassment based on race include the following:
- Causing an employee a physical injury
- Damaging or destroying an employee’s property
- Communicating threats that put a group of employees in fear of physical harm
The hanging of nooses, along with threatening notes, would be an example of malicious racial harassment. Several different employees have filed claims against their employers after African American employees have experienced nooses hung in employee areas. In one case, an employee discovered a noose hung in her lunchroom along with a recruitment poster that contained a racial slur. The employee filed a complaint for race discrimination and recovered a settlement.
Washington State is serious when it comes to punishments for racial harassment and racial discrimination. Malicious racial harassment is a Class C felony in Washington, punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and five years in prison. When an employer fails to stop malicious racial harassment in the workplace, it may be liable for civil damages under federal and state laws.
Examples of Unlawful Discrimination
Race discrimination can happen in a variety of different ways. An employer may give an employee a lower wage than another employee with the same job classification based on his race. Or, an employer or manager could fail to tell employees of a certain race about opportunities for career advancement. Both intentional race discrimination and unintentional race discrimination is illegal. The following are common instances of discrimination in the workplace:
- Treating an employee unfavorably because of the race of the employee’s spouse
- Treating an employee unfavorably because of his or her race
- Unfavorable treatment due to personal characteristics associated with a race
- A company deprives workers of a certain race of receiving management positions
- Terminating an employee after he supported another employee’s discrimination claims
- A company prevents people of a certain race from promotions
- Paying white employees more than similarly qualified African-American employees
- Refusing more job applications from African-American applicants than white applicants
- A company pays African-American managers less than colleagues of other races
- Managers make racial slurs or racially based and offensive comments
- Categorizing resumes or applications based on the applicant’s race
Contact Our Employment Discrimination Law Firm Today
Have you been the victim of race discrimination at your workplace? If so, you need to contact an employment law attorney as soon as possible. At Sapphire Legal, PLLC, our legal team has decades of experience fighting for the rights of Washington employees. Nobody should have to suffer from discrimination in the workplace. We fight hard to help you recover all of the remedies and compensation available to you. Contact Sapphire Legal, PLLC today to schedule your initial consultation.