Racial Discrimination

Racial discrimination occurs when an employer treats an employee, or someone applying for a job, unfairly because that person is of a particular race.  This may also occur if a person receives unfair treatment in the workplace because he/she has physical characteristics associated with a particular race, e.g. skin color.

Discrimination based on race can also take place if an employer treats an employee, or applicant, unfairly because that person affiliates, or associates, with another person of a particular race or organization connected with a particular race.  Race discrimination need not occur between people of different races.

Employment Functions

An employer cannot discriminate, on the basis of race, for any of the essential functions of employment.  Those include hiring, firing, compensation, advancement, training, benefits, or any other condition related to employment.


An employer cannot harass an employee based on the employee’s color or race.  This could include allowing racial slurs to occur in the workplace.  It could also be derogatory remarks based on a person’s color or race.  It is important to note that minor teasing, or a one-time incident that causes little harm is not necessarily illegal.  However, if such incidents become common or pervasive and it results in a hostile work environment, the employer may be liable for racial discrimination.  If repeated comments or teasing result in a detrimental employment decision – like being denied a promotion – the employer may also be liable for racial discrimination.

It is important to understand racial discrimination need not only come from a boss.  It can be a supervisor or co-worker.  In fact, an employer can be liable if it allows racial discrimination against its employees from its customers or clients.

Policies and Procedures

An employer may be guilty of race discrimination if it has a policy in place that appears to be objective, on its face.  However, the effect of the policy is a disproportionately negative impact on one race more than the other.  The policy can still meet legal standards if the employer can show the policy is related to the job and validated by a business necessity.

Consider this example: An employer could have a policy against beards in the workplace.  If the impact of the policy is that fewer African Americans are hired due to a predisposition to get skin bumps from shaving, the employer may be guilty of racial discrimination.

If your employer has treated you unfairly because of your race, our employment discrimination lawyers can help.  Call us at (973) 509-8500 to schedule a free phone consultation.