FAQ Race & Color

What federal statute protects me from race/color discrimination?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects individuals against employment discrimination on the bases of race and color.  It is unlawful to discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of his/her race or color in regard to hiring, termination, promotion, compensation, job training, or any other term, condition, or privilege of employment.  There are a number of state and local statutes that provide similar protection, and in the case of the New York City anti-discrimination laws, even greater protection.

Are all employers covered by Title VII’s race/color anti-discrimination rules?

No. An employer must have at least 15 employees to be subject to Title VII.  State and City laws may vary.  For example, New York State and New York City anti-discrimination laws cover employers who have 4 or more employees. 

What types of race/color discrimination actions are covered by Title VII?

All adverse employment actions are prohibited by Title VII, including:

Discrimination against any employee or applicant for employment because of his/her race or color in regard to hiring, termination, promotion, compensation, job training, or any other term, condition, or privilege of employment.  Title VII also prohibits employment decisions based on stereotypes and assumptions about abilities, traits, or the performance of individuals of certain racial groups.  Title VII prohibits both intentional discrimination and neutral job policies that disparately impact minorities and that are not job related.

It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on race or color, or for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under Title VII.

What evidence is necessary to help prove race/color discrimination under Title VII?

The proof will vary depending on the factual circumstances of your case.  Generally, there are two types of proof of national origin discrimination.  The first is “direct evidence” of the employer’s discriminatory intent.  Most employers are too sophisticated to make oral statements such as "I don’t want Asians answering phones."  But such evidence occasionally is presented, and would constitute direct evidence of an employer’s discriminatory intent. 

In most cases, however, the employee does not have direct evidence and must rely on “indirect evidence” often referred to as “circumstantial” evidence.  In this type of situation, you might be able to show national origin discrimination if you can prove that the employer treated a different race, e.g. Caucasian, more favorably than yours.  For example, Caucasian employees may get raises and promotions while you do not.  Caucasian employees may get more sales leads and preferential treatment.  These examples, obviously, are non-exhaustive, and each case is different.

Sometime you can show race/color discrimination when you can prove that the employer’s stated reason for termination, e.g. position elimination, is false.  For example, your employer tells you that your position is being eliminated, but shortly after the termination the employer hires a Caucasian employee to replace you to do the same work.

How long will the litigation take to be resolved?

In the event a lawsuit is filed, it is truly impossible to predict the duration of litigation. Certain companies may wish to settle the case early; others may wish to fight you “tooth and nail.”  Cases filed in federal court are generally resolved quicker than those filed in state court.

How long do I have to file a race/color discrimination claim under Title VII?

Under federal law in New York, you must file your claim within 300 days of the last act of discrimination.  Under similar New York State and New York City laws, you must file a claim with the respective agency tasked with enforcing the law within 1 year of the last discriminatory act.  You may, however, choose to forego filing with a State or City agency and file your complaint directly with a New York State court.  In the event that you choose to bypass a State or City agency then you must file your complaint within 3 years of the last discriminatory act.

What relief can a court award me if I prove a claim of race/color discrimination?

Under Title VII, you may be entitled to: back-pay and benefits with interest, front-pay and benefits, punitive damages to punish your employer’s willful violation of Title VII, and compensatory damages for willful violations of Title VII to compensate you for mental anguish or other physical injuries suffered as a proximate cause of the employer’s conduct (punitive and compensatory damage awards are capped at a statutory amount, and is determined by the number of people employed by your employer).  Reimbursement of your attorneys’ fees and expenses in bringing the Complaint are also available.  New York City anti-discrimination laws do not impose a cap on punitive damages.




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