What Constitutes Racial Harassment and What Can You Do Against It?

Published: 17th August 2009
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Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, offensive conduct such as racial slurs, racial jokes, derogatory comments, or other verbal or physical behaviors based on a person's race or color is prohibited and is considered racial harassment.

It does not matter if the act was done by a person of the same race, as long as the offensive conduct is aimed at an employee is based on his race, it would still constitute as a violation of the law.

It will be up to the plaintiff to prove that the said offensive act was consistently happening as a routine and the conduct resulted in an unreasonable abusive and offensive work environment that adversely affects the plaintiff's ability to do his/her job.

Co-employee vs. Supervisor

Occasional incidents of offensive conduct by a co-employee based on race typically do not constitute a racial harassment case.

An act of a co-employee should really be offensive and consistent to affect one's work. A single derogatory remark is not enough to create a hostile work environment.

However, if a supervisor or any person in the workplace who has significant authority over the employee says the same derogatory remark, the employee may take action against the said supervisor.

The effects of a remark from a co-employee and a supervisor are different from each other.

A derogatory remark or any offensive conduct based on race performed by a supervisor carries more weight compared to a remark or action from a person who is at the same level of the plaintiff because of the authority that comes with the position.

Being a target of harassment by a person of power in the workplace adds to the stress that the plaintiff experiences.

Employer's Role in Preventing Racial Discrimination

Employers have a duty to their employees to keep the workplace free from racial harassment and discrimination.

• Employers should create and implement policies that will combat harassment and discrimination in the workplace. This should include the appropriate disciplinary actions that will be given to those who violate the policies.

• A grievance system should be in place so that there is an avenue for employees to complain about any offensive conduct that is based on race.

• Complaints and reports about racial harassment should be investigated.

• All employees should also be educated and made aware of the policies and the grievance system of the company.

What should an employee do?

Remember that the burden of proof is on the victim so it will be up to you to prove that the actions taken against you constitute racial harassment.

Here are some tips:

• Keep a record of every incident. Keep an ongoing journal of each incident and keep evidences like emails, voice mails, pictures, etc.

• Attempt to resolve the issue with the offending party by telling him/her how you feel about his/her actions and that he/she should stop.

• Know the company's policies about racial harassment and the company grievance system. If the racial harassment continues, you can follow the protocols set by the company.

• If no actions are taken by the company and the offensive behavior is tolerated by management, then you can file a case of racial harassment with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Make sure to bring present the record and evidences you kept of the offensive conduct.

• Hire a racial harassment attorney to represent your case with the EEOC.

To help you deal with issues on racial harassment and other employment cases, consult with our expert employment attorneys. Visit our website and call us toll free for legal assistance.

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