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How racial discrimination manifests in the modern workplace

On Behalf of | Aug 31, 2023 | Employment Law |

Cultural awareness of racism is arguably at an all-time high, which means that it is often easier for people to identify blatant racial discrimination. Most people will speak up when there is something obviously wrong occurring, like the use of racial epitaphs in the workplace. However, racial discrimination isn’t always obvious. It can often be subtle and difficult for people to identify even when they suspect that their employer may have unfairly considered their race when making key employment decisions.

Those who understand how racial discrimination manifests in modern workplaces may have an easier time documenting the discrimination they experience and fighting back against it. The following are some of the warning signs of racial discrimination in a place of employment.

Racially coded employee handbooks

It is surprisingly common for companies to brag about offering equal employment opportunities while simultaneously including racially-biased requirements in their employment handbooks. One common example relates to how people wear their hair. Those who have naturally wavy, curly or kinky hair may have a very difficult time complying with a requirement for straight or professional hairstyles. Some companies go so far as to forbid natural or protective styles that work well with curly and wavy hair. Other times, there might be rules requiring clean-shaven faces that place an unfair burden on dark-skinned men, who are far more likely than those of European descent to develop severe razor burn. Appearance and behavioral rules that Target specific races can be a form of institutional discrimination.

Management teams that ignore harassment

Racial discrimination doesn’t always come from those in management and executive roles. Often, it will be co-workers who target an individual because of their race. Examples could include workers from one racial background intentionally mocking or excluding those from a different race. Even those who belong to the same race as the employee targeted could engage in discrimination in the form of colorism, where they abuse someone because of a darker complexion when compared with others from the same background. Jokes made at someone’s expense or other worker behaviors that create a hostile work environment are a common source of workplace racial discrimination claims.

Unfair company practices

Race is a protected characteristic at both the federal level and under Florida state laws. Employers should not consider someone’s race when determining whether to hire them for a position, promote them, give them a raise or fire them. When a company has a history of promoting workers from one background or denying opportunities to individuals from a specific race, those choices may constitute a form of actionable racial discrimination.

Those who believe they have experienced discrimination in the workplace may need to document what they have encountered on the job and discuss the matter with a legal professional who is familiar with discrimination laws. Fighting back against racial discrimination can both compensate individual victims and help to change systems that place individuals at an unlawful disadvantage.