Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.
- Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail
Shortly after the end of the Civil War, Congress engaged in a concerted effort to eliminate the vestiges of slavery and race discrimination. Congress enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1866 (guaranteeing to all persons the right to make and enforce contracts and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property as is enjoyed by white citizens), as well as three constitutional amendments. Since that time, additional laws (and amendments to existing laws) have expanded the prohibitions against race discrimination. Most importantly, perhaps, was the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII of that law prohibits discrimination in employment and has been a powerful tool for achieving racial equality in the workplace.
Our law firm believes in the principles embodied in the Constitution and the laws prohibiting race discrimination. As attorneys, we have dedicated our careers to seeking justice for clients who have fallen victim to race discrimination and we are ready to fight for you.
This country has a long history of racism, and the state of Alabama is no different. It has been built into institutions and ways of life. Discrimination based on race, however, is unlawful in many areas of our life, from housing to employment to public services and many other areas. Race discrimination persists, and so when it causes you harm, you may be entitled to file a claim and eventually a lawsuit.
What is Title VII?
Title VII is a federal law that prohibits employers, unions, and employment agencies from discriminating against employees, members, or applicants on the basis of race or color, as well as religion, sex, and national origin. It generally applies to all employers with 15 or more employees. Race discrimination involves treating someone unfavorably because he or she is of a certain race or because of personal characteristics associated with race (i.e., hair texture, skin color, or certain facial features). Color discrimination involves treating someone unfavorably because of skin color or complexion. Race discrimination can also involve treating someone unfavorably because the person is married to (or associated with) a person of a certain race or color, or because of a person's connection with a race-based organization or group. Discrimination can occur even when the victim and the person who inflicted the discrimination are the same race or color.
Title VII prohibits discrimination as to every aspect of employment, including recruitment, hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, fringe benefits, or any other term or condition of employment.
The law also makes it unlawful to harass a person because of that person's race or color. Harassment can include, for example, racial slurs, offensive or derogatory remarks about a person's race or color, or the display of racially-offensive symbols, such as nooses, in the workplace. While the law does not prohibit offhand comments, isolated incidents, or simple teasing, harassment does become illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision.
An employment policy or practice that applies to everyone, regardless of race or color, can nevertheless be illegal if it has a negative impact on the employment of people of a particular race or color and is not job-related and necessary to the operation of the business. For example, a "no-beard" employment policy that applies to all workers without regard to race may still be unlawful if it is not job-related and has a negative impact on the employment of African-American men (who have a predisposition to a skin condition that causes severe shaving bumps).
Fighting Race Discrimination
Race and color discrimination in the workplace is unacceptable. This applies at every stage of employment, from hiring to firing. When there is evidence that this kind of violation has occurred, it is your right to pursue legal action. But, identifying and responding to workplace discrimination can be complicated. For example, in order to secure your rights to a workplace free of discrimination, you may have to file charges of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC").
If you are experiencing race or color discrimination in the workplace, make certain that you are documenting each event, including the time, date, location, and people involved. Make certain that you are aware of your employer's internal procedure for filing complaints of discrimination. Under Title VII, it may be necessary for you to utilize your employer's internal procedures and try to correct the problem internally before proceeding to court. If your employer does not have a formal complaint procedure, report any discrimination to your direct supervisor or the Human Resources department.
You can also seek assistance from the EEOC. The time limits for filing formal charges with the EEOC is generally 180 days from the act of discrimination. Failure to file these charges can result in you losing your rights. While it is not necessary for you to have an attorney to file charges with the EEOC, an attorney can be very helpful at this stage. An attorney with experience handling these types of matters can review the facts of your case and advise you as to how best to present your evidence to the EEOC. If the EEOC is unable to resolve the matter, you may proceed to court.
Can My Employer Fire Me For Complaining?
Title VII makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against people because they filed a charge of discrimination, because they complained to their employer about discrimination, or because they participated in an employment discrimination proceeding (such as an investigation or lawsuit). The law also prohibits employers from retaliating against other individuals associated with people who have engaged in protected activity. For example, an employer may not terminate a husband because his wife, who is also an employee, has complained of race discrimination in the workplace.
How We Can Help
By hiring an attorney to advise you and work on your behalf, you have a legal advocate on your side who will make certain your voice is heard. Our attorneys can guide you throughout the entire process, from filing your informal complaint with your employer, filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC, or, if necessary, filing a lawsuit on your behalf.
Facing race discrimination in the workplace can be stressful and humiliating. It can disrupt your daily life and your relationships with your family. We want to help. Our law firm focuses on protecting those whose rights have been violated due to discrimination. The workplace should be a neutral environment that is fair to all employees. It should not be a place where discrimination and hostility are the order of the day. If you or a loved one has experienced discrimination due to race, contact Haynes & Haynes today by using our online form or calling us at (205) 879-0377 to discuss your situation. The consultation is always free.