Race Discrimination

Race discrimination in the workplace occurs when an employer treats an employee in an adverse way based on the employee’s race or a characteristic connected with that employee’s race. Physical characteristics associated with race include skin color, facial features and hair styling. As you might expect, discrimination on the basis of race is illegal (subject to a few exceptions).

The Spiggle Law Firm focuses solely on employment matters and will help you fight back against unlawful employment discrimination. We are especially familiar with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), which serves as the legal basis for most claims of employment race discrimination.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Besides race, Title VII also prohibits discrimination by employers on the basis of color, religion, national origin and sex. However, Title VII only applies to employers with 15 or more employees.

Discriminatory employment activities based on an employee’s race can take many forms under Title VII, such as:

  • Firing
  • Demotion
  • Refusal to hire
  • Pay
  • Benefits
  • Training
  • Workplace discipline
  • Job evaluations

If you believe you are the victim of race discrimination, please contact us so we can help you decide what your legal rights are and what your next steps should be.

Three Things You Can Do Right Now
  1. Keep a journal of the race discrimination you’re facing, including important facts to serve as evidence in support of your allegations.Find out what your employer’s complaint or reporting procedures are for claims of race discrimination and follow them the best you can.
  2. This might include filing a formal complaint with human resources or making contact with a designated officer in your company.
  3. File a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or applicable EEO Counselor as soon as you can. There are deadlines to preserve the legal rights that you don’t want to miss. And as always, call a lawyer.

Frequently Asked Questions

I believe my boss discriminated against me based on my race. However, my boss is the same race as me. Could unlawful race discrimination still have taken place?

Yes. What’s important is that discrimination occurred on the basis of your race. Therefore, the race of the individual engaging in racist activity makes no difference.

I work for a small business that has only 13 employees. Can I still sue them for race discrimination under Title VII?

Based on the information given, you probably cannot sue your employer for race discrimination under Title VII. But there that doesn’t mean your employer is in the clear. First, even though your employer has concluded that is only has 13 employees, doesn’t mean the courts interpreting Title VII will see it that way. If your employer has part-time employees or contract workers, it’s possible they could be considered part of the employee count total and meet the 15 employee threshold of Title VII.

Second, even if Title VII doesn’t apply to your case, a state or local law might. For example, Washington, D.C. has its own anti-discrimination law called the DC Human Rights Act. This law prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of race and applies to employers of any size. And Virginia has a similar law called the Virginia Human Rights Act that applies to employers with as few as six employees.


I haven’t been fired, demoted or transferred to a less desirable position, but I constantly face bullying and harassment based on my race. Can harassment be a form of race discrimination?

Yes, although whether the harassing behavior will be legally recognized as unlawful depends on the severity of the misconduct and how much of it you’re facing. Racial harassment becomes unlawful if it unreasonably interferes with work or otherwise creates an intimidating or hostile work environment. As a general rule, the most severe the harassment, the fewer occurrences are needed to create illegal harassment.

So if you’re African-American and your boss punched you in the face because he was tired of having to work with African-Americans, then that’s probably enough to constitute racial harassment. But if you have a coworker who repeats a joke he heard that makes fun of African-Americans, then that single instance probably won’t be enough to warrant legal action for racial harassment, no matter how politically incorrect or insensitive it was to make the joke.

I just applied for a job and received a callback interview. The interview was going well until I mentioned that my spouse is Asian (and I’m not). I have a suspicion that I was denied the job because my spouse is Asian. Did illegal discrimination just take place?

Yes, assuming your suspicion is correct. Even though you weren’t discriminated against because of your race, your prospective employer still engaged in illegal race discrimination. This is an example of “association discrimination,” where an individual is discriminated against based on his or her association (in your case, marriage) with a protected class.

I’m Hispanic and I applied for a sales job, but was denied the position. When I asked why I wasn’t hired, I was told it was because the majority of the prospective employer’s customers don’t like dealing with people who are Hispanic. Assuming this is true, is the employer still guilty of race discrimination?

Most likely. Even though the employer isn’t racist, they can still be liable for race discrimination if they make employment decisions based on the racist beliefs of certain non-employees, such as customers.