Racial Discrimination in the Workplace: What You Need to Know

The Panasonic Lawsuit

The laws against racial discrimination allow victims to fight back against racial discrimination to obtain some measure of compensation and justice. Last summer, three African-Americans in senior positions with the Panasonic Corporation of North America sued the electronics giant. They asserted the company had permitted a policy of discrimination for decades that stunted the growth of each of the employee’s careers, including discriminating against employees over wages, hiring, promotions, transfers, training programs, and other issues.

Glorina Cruz, one of the plaintiffs and the company’s director of compensation, alleged that she was listed on the company succession plan as the next vice president of human resources. Despite this, Panasonic hired an external candidate to fill the position for which Cruz was the designated successor. Another plaintiff, Sandra Karriem, who works as an assistant general counsel, alleged she was paid less than white males with equal or less experience. When she inquired about the pay difference, she was told it was due to the fact that those employees had taken on special projects, even though Karriem had also taken on special projects such as managing the legal work related to the move of the company’s headquarters from Secaucus to Newark.

The suit between the victims and Panasonic is presently ongoing. Notably, the plaintiffs were recently able to achieve a significant interim victory by obtaining court-ordered access to internal Panasonic records of prior complaints made by employees. These complaints of discrimination and retaliation stretch back to 24 years, which is when the longest-tenured of the three plaintiffs started at Panasonic. In discrimination cases, evidence of prior complaints of discrimination and the manner in which they were handled, is a major factor in proving severe or pervasive conduct of discrimination at the work place.

New Jersey’s Employment Laws Strongly Prohibit Discrimination

New Jersey law has a zero-tolerance policy against racial discrimination in the workplace. New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”), N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 et seq., addresses workplace racial discrimination and seeks to “eradicate the cancer of discrimination” that still exists in today’s society. These liberally construed laws act to prohibit employment discrimination or harassment against persons in certain protected categories, such as: race, color, ancestry, national origin, disability, age, religion, sex, gender, and nationality. The law includes employment protections for situations such as hiring, promotions, transfers, compensation, termination, and terms and conditions of employment. In addition, the LAD prohibits reprisals (also known as retaliation) against anyone asserting their rights under the law.

Workplace racial discrimination is also prohibited under federal law by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This act bans discrimination based on anyone’s race, color, or national origin in hiring, termination, compensation, or terms, conditions and privileges of employment. It also bans limiting, segregating, or classifying employees in a way that deprives them of employment opportunities or adversely affects their employment status. Title VII is enforced by local field offices of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”).

What to Do if You’re a Victim of Racial Discrimination

If you believe you are the victim of racial discrimination or retaliation in the workplace, contact an experienced attorney right away. There are limited deadlines for making a complaint and filing a lawsuit for these claims. The Law Offices of John J. Zidziunas & Associates has an experienced team of New York and New Jersey racial discrimination lawyers who know and understand your rights. For further information, please feel free to call us at 973-509-8500, email info@jjzlawfirm.com, or visit our webpage at http://employmentdiscrimination.com/.