Color Discrimination Lawyers
Do you believe the color of your skin was a factor in:
- Your demotion or termination?
- Your employer’s refusal to promote you?
- A pay difference between you and a coworker of a different skin color?
- A prospective employer’s denial of employment?
- Workplace harassment at the hands of your boss, supervisor or coworker?
If so, then you may have been the victim of color discrimination. The law protects employees from color discrimination in all aspects of the employment process. Working with an employment discrimination attorney can help you prevent further discriminatory conduct and can ensure that your rights are protected.
What is color discrimination?
Unlawful color discrimination occurs when an employer makes an adverse employment decision against an employee or applicant for employment on the basis of his or her skin color. In this context, “color” refers to the pigmentation, complexion, shade or tone of a person’s skin.
State and federal prohibitions against color discrimination also prohibit an employer from taking an adverse employment action against an employee or candidate for employment because of his or her associations with a person of a particular color.
Color Discrimination vs. Racial Discrimination
While color discrimination and racial discrimination are similar and often overlap, the two are distinct forms of discrimination. Whereas race discrimination refers to actions taken on the basis of a person’s racial group as a whole, color discrimination refers to discriminatory actions taken on the basis of a person’s skin color or shade, such as actions taken against light-skinned or dark-skinned employees. Since there are a variety of skin shades in each racial group, such discrimination can occur between members of different racial groups or between members within the same racial group. For example, a lighter-skinned African American supervisor may discriminate against an African American employee with a darker shade of skin.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of an employee’s skin color. Title VII’s protections apply to employers who employ “fifteen or more employees for each working day in each of twenty or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year.”
The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) also prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of an employee’s color. The PHRA provides protections to those whose employers have four or more employees within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Under both Title VII and the PHRA, an employer may not discriminate against an employee on the basis of his or her color, or the color of anyone with whom he or she associates, in any material way, including:
- Compensation, including benefits plans
- Job recruiting
- Harassing conduct
In addition to the protections mentioned above, both Title VII and the PHRA prevent an employer from retaliating against an employee for reporting discriminatory conduct or for participating in an investigation into discriminatory conduct. While the type of retaliatory conduct will differ in each case, examples of common types of retaliation include:
- Denial of promotion
- Decrease in bonuses or other forms of compensation/benefits
- Creation of a hostile work environment
- Unwarranted negative performance evaluations
Internal Reporting Procedures
Your employer may have policies regarding color discrimination in its handbook. These policies can include reporting requirements and may require you to follow a certain procedure for raising and documenting issues of discrimination within your workplace. You should follow these procedures and document your actions in writing. It is most likely unnecessary to involve a discrimination attorney in your case at this point. However, you may choose to do so if you are facing resistance to filing your complaint. Failure to follow your employer’s internal procedures may lead to a denial of damages, so it is important to make sure you have taken advantage of these internal processes if you feel that you have been the victim of color discrimination.
Filing a Charge of Discrimination
If following your employer’s internal procedures for reporting and remedying workplace discrimination has not worked, it may be time to consider taking legal action. Before filing a lawsuit, you are required to file a charge of discrimination with either the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC). The charge of discrimination will lay out the conduct you believe constitutes discriminatory behavior and will allow the agency to investigate your claims. This charge must be filed within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory conduct. The agency will investigate your claim and will consider whether to attempt to mediate a solution or file a lawsuit against your employer on your behalf.
While it is possible to take this initial step without the assistance of an attorney, complying with agency procedures can be confusing and frustrating for those without prior experience. If you require assistance with your discrimination charge, we recommend that you speak with one of the lawyers at KM&A. Our attorneys have experience navigating the agency landscape and can help ensure you are following the proper procedures and do not miss any deadlines.
Filing a lawsuit
If, six months after your filing with the EEOC or PHRC, the agency has not been able to mediate a satisfactory outcome and has not filed a lawsuit against your employer, you can request a right to sue letter allowing you to personally file a lawsuit against your employer in court. While litigation can be expensive and time-consuming, a successful color discrimination lawsuit can lead to a variety of remedies, including back pay, wages and benefits lost as a result of the discrimination, reinstatement, front pay, and attorney’s fees.
Why Hire an Attorney?
Sometimes, an employment discrimination attorney is capable of obtaining an outcome that you would not otherwise be able to achieve. Having an employment discrimination attorney involved in the case may prompt an employer to change their policies and/or behavior without the need to file a formal complaint. An experienced color discrimination attorney who is used to investigating workplace discrimination may be able to find additional supporting evidence for your claim.
Additionally, an employment discrimination attorney will make sure that you do not miss any filing deadlines. It is important to file your claims with the appropriate offices within a certain time frame, and an experienced color discrimination attorney is used to meeting those deadlines. If your case progresses to a lawsuit, having an attorney on your side is crucial.
Kraemer, Manes & Associates LLC “KM&A” is a law firm serving all of Pennsylvania with our principal offices in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Call KM&A in western Pennsylvania at 412-626-5626 or in eastern Pennsylvania at 215-618-9185. KM&A can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.