Race Discrimination and Harassment
If you or a loved one have been discriminated against or harassed at work call our Law Firm. Unfortunately, San Antonio and South Texas is a breeding ground for racial discrimination in the workplace. Federal law and Texas law provides protections to members of a “protected class” against discrimination in the workplace. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal law that prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and religion. It generally applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including federal, state, and local governments. Title VII also applies to private and public colleges and universities, employment agencies, and labor organizations. Race, ethnicity and color are “protected classes” established by Title VII.
Racial Discrimination Prohibited. Racial discrimination happens when a person is treated differently based upon their actual or perceived race . Race discrimination also encompasses discrimination based upon skin color. Racial discrimination can even happen within the same race; sometimes a darker skinned Latino or African American can be discriminated against on the basis of their skin color by people of their own race. Though race and color are related concepts, the two are not synonymous. Color discrimination occurs when someone is discriminated against based on the lightness, darkness, or other color characteristic of their skin or hair. Color discrimination can occur between persons of different races or ethnicities, or between persons of the same race or ethnicity. Both federal and Texas law prohibit discrimination based upon stereotypes, racial assumptions about abilities, traits or the performance of individuals of certain racial groups.
The following are examples of racial discrimination:
- Hiring/Firing/Promotions: You are told you are being laid off, despite excellent qualification or experience, because you are told that some of your employer’s established clients are not comfortable dealing with African-Americans or Latinos. Or, white employee with less seniority keep their jobs and you are laid off due “company cutbacks and reorganization. Racial discrimination can happen to you if you have been passed over for promotion for many years and the position is routinely filled by people less qualified of a different race.
- Transfers to a Less Desirable Territory. Sometimes an employer will transfer a minority employee to a sales territory with a historically lower commission opportunity because the employee is told that that territory is “more suited” to the employee’s corresponding race or ethnicity. The transferred employee’s former position is then filled by someone of another race and that person continues to earn substantially more money than the transferred employee.
- Pay: You worked your way up from the position of executive assistant to project manager. A white project manager with similar training and work experience was recently hired, and you find out that he will be paid more than you. You are a top salesperson for your company, but are moved to a less desirable territory because it is a minority neighborhood, while another white employee with much lower sales is given your territory and client base, enabling him to make much more in commissions than you will make for several years.
- Job Classification: You work at a company that has a a progressive classification system for corporate rank; your duties and responsibilities have increased over time but not your pay while white colleagues have their job classification and pay adjusted to reflect their increased responsibilities.
- Harassment: One of your coworkers thinks it's “funny” to use the “n word” in conversation and to tell jokes insulting blacks, Latinos, Asians, and other minorities; these comments make you very uncomfortable, and you've asked him to stop, but he tells you that you need to get a sense of humor; the boss tells you to ignore him, but doesn't talk to or discipline your coworker for his harassing behavior.
The last example, also called a hostile work environment. A hostile work environment has been defined by the courts to mean racial comments that are "sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim's employment and create an abusive working environment” See Harris v. Forklift Systems, Inc. If you have been forced to resign, or feel like you cannot even come into work another day because the racial environment is so abusive then you may have a claim for racial discrimination.
Evidentiary Considerations. As in most employment law claims, these cases are “she said, he said” type cases and therefore documenting everything that occurs is very important. You are encouraged to keep a diary or journal of what is going on at work as well as keeping copies of all correspondence to and from your employer (written complaints to the HR department, emails to and from your supervisor and/or coworkers, and any other relevant documents). If you are in San Antonio, or within the state of Texas, you can also make audio recordings of conversations without the other parties’ consent or knowledge as long as you are in the same room as the recording device. See this resource for the legalities of audio recordings in Texas.
Remedies for Employment Discrimination. Whenever discrimination is found, the goal of the law is to put the victim of discrimination in the same position (or nearly the same) that he or she would have been if the discrimination had never occurred. The types of relief will depend upon the discriminatory action and the effect it had on the victim. For example, if someone is not selected for a job or a promotion because of discrimination, the remedy may include placement in the job and/or back pay and benefits the person would have received. The employer also will be required to stop any discriminatory practices and take steps to prevent discrimination in the future. A victim of discrimination also may be able to recover attorney's fees, expert witness fees, and court costs.
Remedies May Include Compensatory & Punitive Damages. Compensatory and punitive damages may be awarded in cases involving intentional discrimination based on a person's race, color, national origin, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), religion, disability, or genetic information.
Compensatory damages pay victims for out-of-pocket expenses caused by the discrimination (such as costs associated with a job search or medical expenses) and compensate them for any emotional harm suffered (such as mental anguish, inconvenience, or loss of enjoyment of life).
Punitive damages may be awarded to punish an employer who has committed an especially malicious or reckless act of discrimination.
Limits on Compensatory & Punitive Damages. There are limits on the amount of compensatory and punitive damages a person can recover. These limits vary depending on the size of the employer:
- For employers with 15-100 employees, the limit is $50,000.
- For employers with 101-200 employees, the limit is $100,000.
- For employers with 201-500 employees, the limit is $200,000.
- For employers with more than 500 employees, the limit is $300,000.
Age or Sex Discrimination & Liquidated Damages. In cases involving intentional age discrimination, or in cases involving intentional sex-based wage discrimination under the Equal Pay Act, victims cannot recover either compensatory or punitive damages, but may be entitled to "liquidated damages."
Liquidated damages may be awarded to punish an especially malicious or reckless act of discrimination. The amount of liquidated damages that may be awarded is equal to the amount of back pay awarded the victim.
Statute of Limitations. To preserve your claim under state law, you must file with the TWC-CRD (or cross-file with the EEOC) within 180 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against. To preserve your claim under federal law, you must file with the EEOC (or cross-file with the state agency) within 300 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against. However, as you might have other legal claims with shorter deadlines, do not wait to file your claim until your time limit is close to expiring. If you are a governmental employee with a discrimination claim, you should be sure to file a timely claim under Texas state law, because the state may have immunity from certain kinds of claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.Call Us!
If you or a loved one has been subject to employment discrimination based on race, color or ethnicity, please contact the attorneys of Carabin Shaw in San Antonio today. We offer free initial consultations and work on a contingent fee basis, which means that there is never a fee unless we successfully resolve your case. Our experienced San Antonio employment lawyers will know how to deal with the employment discrimination so you don’t have to.
For immediate assistance and to set up a free consultation with one of our experienced lawyers, call us toll-free at 800-862-1260.
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