Have you experienced repetitive negative comments at work about your race or religion? Are important work events always scheduled during times that conflict with your religious practice? Do you believe you’ve been denied promotions, pay raises, or employment due to your race or religious beliefs? Any of the above could mean you are facing racial or religious discrimination in the workplace.
Under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), you are protected from discrimination practices based on nationality, race, and skin color. You also cannot be discriminated against for your religious beliefs, and employers are expected to make reasonable accommodations for your beliefs, unless it creates an undue hardship for them.
If you think you may be facing racial or religious discrimination in the workplace, then you may want to talk to a seasoned employment lawyer who can listen to your case and provide legal advice. The well-respected legal team at The Law Firm of Morgan Rooks, P.C. can meet with you at an initial consultation and let you know what your legal options are. Don’t hesitate to call us at (856) 817-6221.
Common Types of Workplace Racial Discrimination
Even though our country has made strides toward eliminating racial discrimination and stereotypes, the reality is that it still exists and happens every day. It is unacceptable in any setting, but at your workplace, you should expect to be treated equally no matter your race, nationality, or skin color. You might experience racial discrimination as a direct result of bias, prejudice, or stereotyping, but it can also be much more subtle than that.
Common types of workplace racial discrimination include, but are not limited to:
- Refusing to hire someone because of skin color, race, or nationality
- Not mentoring an employee based on race
- Looking someone over for a promotion due to skin color
- Trying to blame someone for a workplace error because of their race
- Spreading falsehoods about someone because of their nationality or race
- Paying someone in an equal position less than someone else because of their skin color
- Denying a new position to someone because of race
- Treating someone noticeably different due to their skin color or nationality
- Stopping an employee from working with clients because of skin color
An attorney well-versed in workplace racial discrimination can review your specific circumstances with you to help you determine if you may have a legal case and what your next steps should be.
How Employers May Discriminate Based on Religion
Religious discrimination may manifest itself in similar ways to racial discrimination. For example, if an employer passes you over for a promotion, and you know it is because of your religious beliefs, that is discrimination. They may not allow you to see clients because of how your beliefs require you to dress, such as a turban, hijab, yarmulke, or burqa.
Under the first amendment to the United States Constitution, you are entitled to your religious freedom. An employer is required by law to reasonably accommodate your religious beliefs and practices, and they should not subject employees to segregation based on their religion.
What to Do If You Find Yourself in a Hostile Work Environment
As stated, Title VII and NJLAD are put in place to protect you from a hostile work environment. Not all teasing or offensive conduct signifies a hostile work environment. A hostile work environment is one where you have been subjected to treatment based on race or religion that was so severe, it creates a hostile, abusive, or intimidating work environment. The proper legal standard for determining a hostile work environment is if the conduct you face is “severe or pervasive,” which can include even one single, severely offensive slur against your race or religion.
If you do end up finding yourself in a hostile work environment, then your employer may be liable for the condition, depending on who was participating in the discrimination against you. Employers should have a policy regarding racial harassment and religious discrimination, and if they do not, that can be considered negligent and reckless. That policy should outline a procedure for investigating and providing remediation in the instances when a supervisor is involved.
If the conduct happens with a non-supervisory employee, then your employer can face liability only if they knew about the discrimination and did not make an attempt to correct the action.
Once you have notified your employer of the misconduct against you, if they fail to either fix the issue or if you find yourself a victim of retaliation, then you should consider contacting an employment law attorney to talk about the behavior you have faced and how they can help you with your case.
Filing an Official Complaint at Work
Your communication to your employer about your discrimination should take the form of an official complaint. The first step in filing a discrimination complaint is to consult your company’s employee handbook. There you will find your company’s written procedures and policies outlining what action you should take. This is a crucial component of the process, and failing to follow these official procedures could impact your chances at taking legal action at any point in the future. Once you know your company’s policy, you can then move your case forward by filing a written complaint to put your company on notice. After receiving the complaint, your company has the opportunity to remedy the issue through disciplinary action against the offender or a change in company policy.
It’s essential also to know what constitutes discriminatory behavior in the eyes of the law. Disgruntled employees can’t file discrimination complaints based on their boss’ character flaws or any behavior they deem unfair. The complaint must specifically identify conduct that could be considered harassment or discriminatory based on character traits like religion, race, sexual preference, or gender. It can also cover unpaid wages or overtime. These complaints are considered “protected activity” for the employee, meaning they can make the complaint without fear of retaliation.
To defend themselves against discrimination or harassment complaints, employers may evoke affirmative defense, and if proved, will effectively stop your case from moving forward. To effectively use the affirmative defense, an employer must prove they took appropriate action to prevent and reverse all behavior that could be viewed as discriminatory, and the aggrieved employee failed to take advantage of these corrective or preventive measures.
What Happens Once You Contact an Attorney About Discrimination
After you have your initial call with an employment law attorney, they will work with you to compile all the details of your racial or religious discrimination case. This may include any documentation you have available, such as:
- Official complaint filed with the human resources department
- Any emails or written in-office communication that may document the discriminatory behavior against you
- Witness statements from fellow employees that saw what happened to you
- Any evidence of retaliatory behavior that occurred after you reported the mistreatment
- Any other supporting evidence that can benefit your case
The lawyer will send all the details of your complaint directly to your employer and give them a chance to respond to your claim. If they do not respond or if they deny your claim, then your lawyer will begin negotiating with their legal team to try and get you the compensation you deserve for suffering this negative and stressful work environment. This could include mediation, or the case may end up going to trial if a settlement cannot be reached outside of the courts.
Types of Compensation You May Be Able to Recover
In cases of religious and racial discrimination, there are various types and forms of compensation that you may be able to recover once your lawyer has proven that you faced these issues. Types of damages may include:
- Back pay: This can be awarded if you were denied a raise or an advancement due to race or religion.
- Front pay: If you were let go because of your racial origins or religious beliefs, the company may be forced to pay you your salary for a specified amount of time.
- Lost wages: If you were suspended or lost any work time over discrimination, you may be able to recover lost wages.
- Pain and suffering: There is no set amount for this type of compensation, but your attorney can help you build a case for an amount that is fair based on the pain and suffering the discrimination caused.
- Reinstatement: If you lost your job due to reporting discrimination or because of direct discrimination, you may be able to be reinstated with the same salary and benefits.
The types of compensation available to you may depend on the severity of your discrimination and what exactly happened to you at your job.
Frequently Asked Questions About Racial and Religious Discrimination
At The Law Firm of Morgan Rooks, P.C., we are often contacted about potential cases of racial and religious discrimination at work. We’ve provided answers to some of the questions we often receive. However, an attorney can review your circumstances and answer your questions in detail.
My coworker made an offensive remark to me. Do I have a case against them?
Generally, if it was just one remark, and it was not to be abusive or hostile, you may not have a case for discrimination. They may have made an offhand remark and not thought much of it. However, if it becomes repetitive behavior and does not change once you report it to human resources, then you may have a case for discriminatory behavior. Always contact a lawyer in this instance to review your case.
What if I work at a small company? Am I still protected?
Any d company is subject to anti-discrimination laws under New Jersey state regulations. Federal laws extend to organizations with 15 or more employees, but in our state, any company must adhere to these laws. If you work for a small company and are unsure if you are protected under these laws, call our legal team for more information.
If I’m fired for discriminatory reasons, should I continue looking for another job?
Yes, if you are fired, you should continue looking for another job. It will help your case to show that you are doing what you can to make the best of the situation – and if you are hired elsewhere, it could also show that you are a valued and good employee, which will also help to support your case.
Our Experienced Discrimination Attorneys Can Help
Unfortunately, racial and religious discrimination happens at workplaces across the United States. If you face this kind of negative behavior at work, you may be entitled to compensation if your employer did not take the proper steps to stop it, or if they penalized you for your race or religion.
If you think you have been a victim of discrimination, our legal team at The Law Firm of Morgan Rooks, P.C. may be able to help you. Contact us today at (856) 817-6221 to tell us about your case. We’ll review your legal rights and options with you and determine how we can help you recover damages.