Boston Race Discrimination Lawyer

Serving Clients Throughout Massachusetts

Racial discrimination remains a major problem in American society. Although signs such as “whites only” may have disappeared, discrimination against blacks (or African-Americans) and other racial minorities persists under the surface. Employers have become more subtle but no less effective at maintaining the status quo.

What Types of Race Discrimination are Unlawful?

Under the law, virtually any type of negative treatment of an individual at work based the individual’s race is illegal.  Types of illegal actions targeting a member of a minority race include:

  • Not hiring or not considering the person for employment
  • Not promoting or considering the person for promotion
  • Paying the person less that non-minorities
  • Restricting the person to lower-wage jobs
  • Not offering similar chances for advancement as those provided to non-minorities
  • Firing or terminating a person based upon his or her race (which could include firing or terminating a group of minority workers when a reduction in force is required)
  • Almost any other situation in which a minority worker is negatively affected because of a work decision in which race was the motivating factor for the negative outcome. 

Does Race Discrimination Need to Be Intentional?

State and federal law prohibit both intentional racial discrimination as well as certain unintentional discrimination. Employment actions that have a disproportionate effect on racial minorities may be illegal, even if the policy or practice at issue is itself neutrally applied, if such actions are not based on a legitimate business necessity or if less discriminatory alternatives to the actions are feasible. It is important to realize that discrimination occurs in many ways, from the obvious to the subtle.

Proving Unlawful Discrimination

A common way to detect unlawful discrimination is to compare an employer’s treatment of similar non-minorities. For instance, if a company disciplines a black employee for an actual violation of company policy, but the company has not disciplined many non-black employees for the same violation, there would be a strong argument that the different treatment of the black employee resulted from a discriminatory motive.

Similarly, if a company denies an open position to a minority applicant due to a lack of a specific qualification, but offers the position to a non-minority who also lacks the same qualification, this may demonstrate discrimination. Although one should not assume that discrimination has occurred whenever an employment action results in negative consequences on a minority, there is often a hidden discriminatory motive behind such decisions.

Hostile Workplaces are Illegal

It is also illegal for an employer to create or allow a hostile work environment based on an employee’s race. This can occur when supervisors use racial slurs directed toward, or in the presence of, a minority, or when the company knows of and tolerates such conduct by co-workers. The employee must prove that the racial slurs or other conduct created an environment that is intimidating and/or hostile to a degree that it interferes with the employee’s work performance.

What Should You Do if You are Facing a Hostile Workplace?

The actions that should be taken in a hostile workplace depend upon the nature of the situation.  In a large factory, for instance, the first step might be to file a complaint with the HR department.  It will be important that a company be properly put on notice of the wrongful conduct so that the company is able to take corrective action.

If such a complaint is made, it is important to note that under the law, workers are protected from retaliatory action for reporting a hostile environment.  As a result, a company cannot fire a worker or otherwise engage in retribution against the worker for making such a report of discrimination.

In other cases, such as in a small company where it is the owner who is making the racial remarks, there may not be anyone to whom a complaint may be made other than the boss.  In this case, if a complaint is made and you are fired, then you may have a strong case for race discrimination as well as illegal retaliation.

Documenting the Hostile Workplace

In order for a workplace to be considered “hostile,” normally there will be many instances of wrongful conduct that occur over time.  Sometimes it will be one or two actions. The nature of the conduct and the particular circumstances of each case determine when a work environment becomes “hostile” under the law. For instance, one or more managers or workers may use racially-offensive words in the presence of minority workers or in other circumstances on an ongoing basis.  If a supervisor calls a minority subordinate a racially derogatory slur once, however, that may by itself create a hostile work environment. If you are being subjected to such conduct, it will be critical to document all of the circumstances in which the conduct occurs, such as the day, time, what happened, and who was there.

How We Help in Race Discrimination Matters – Call for a Free Consultation

If you believe that you have been discriminated against on the basis of race, please call us to tell us about your case and so we can determine if we can help.  As Boston race discrimination lawyers serving clients throughout Massachusetts, we are tenacious in pursuing race discrimination claims and seeking to hold employers accountable to the fullest extent of the law.

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