Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 specifically forbids employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex or religion. Under this law, and related statutes and court decisions, an employer may not discriminate against an individual on the basis of race or color in making decisions related to hiring, termination, promotion, compensation, job training, or any other aspect of employment. This law also makes it unlawful for an employer to base employment-related decisions on the basis of stereotypes or other assumptions which result from racial stereotypes or other inappropriate assumptions about individuals based on their race.
In addition to forbidding intentional racial discrimination, Title VII also makes it illegal to enact seemingly-neutral employment policies which result in disproportionately excluding minorities. In a related vein, opportunities cannot be denied to any people based on their relationship to a racial minority, their membership in ethnically-based groups or associations, participation in activities associated with particular racial or ethnic groups, or any participation in cultural practices, such as mode of dress, which are traditionally linked to a particular racial or religious group.
Although not all members of the same racial or ethnic group share the same physical characteristics, discrimination on the basis of any immutable characteristic which others may associate with race, such as skin color or other physical features is also a violation of Title VII. Similarly, an employment practice which results in disparate treatment of employees who are affected by a physical condition which is often associated with a particular race is also a violation, unless the employer can satisfactorily demonstrate that the practice is job-related and a necessity of the particular position.
In some instances, a person may have a basis for pursuing a legal claim based on reverse discrimination. Although the law is less clear in this regard, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has applied the same standards when judging claims of reverse discrimination as when judging other claims of discrimination, meaning that the same standard of proof will apply regardless of the claimant’s race.
Title VII’s protections apply to a variety of circumstances, in addition to the areas of hiring and firing. For example, job requirements must be applied equally to people of all races, and beyond that, a job requirement may be deemed unlawful under Title VII if it results in the exclusion of one particular racial group on a disproportionate basis, if that requirement is clearly not related to the performance of the specific position. Similarly, an employer may not adopt any kind of testing as a prerequisite for a position if the test requires knowledge or skills which are not related to the performance of that job.
Discrimination is prohibited in determining compensation, as well as all other terms of employment such as benefits work assignments, training, disciplinary actions and of course hiring and firing. In addition, Title VII prohibits any form of harassment on the basis of race, including the use of ethnic slurs, telling racial jokes, or other kinds of derogatory comments. Verbal or physical conduct which creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment is also prohibited and may form the basis for a legal claim.
Elliot Felig & Associates offers legal representation to individuals who have experienced racial discrimination in employment. Before making any decisions about whether or not to sign any kind of severance agreement or file any kind of claim, one should speak to an attorney who can review the facts surrounding the particular case with an eye towards the relevant protections offered by federal, state or local laws. To explore these and related issues, please contact us at 212-828-2770.