This country has a long history of racism, and the state of Mississippi is no different. It has been built into institutions and ways of life. Discrimination based on race, however, is unlawful in many areas of our life, from housing to employment to public services and many other areas. Race discrimination persists, and so when it causes you harm, you may be entitled to file a claim and eventually a lawsuit.
At Watson & Norris, PLLC, our race discrimination attorney in Mississippi understands what our clients have experienced and will use our resources to make sure you obtain the compensation and other remedies available to you in your unique case. Contact us at 601-968-0000 to schedule a free initial consultation today.
What Constitutes Race Discrimination in the Workplace?
Federal law prohibits any type of discrimination based on a person's race. Racial discrimination in the workplace occurs when a current employee, or an applicant for a job, is treated unfavorably because of their race. Employees or applicants may also experience race discrimination because of a relationship they have with a person of a different race. It is also possible for a person to racially discriminate against someone of their own race.
Racial discrimination includes unfavorable treatment due to a person's characteristics that are typically associated with a particular race. This includes the color of their skin, the texture of their hair, and other physical traits.
Another related type of discrimination is color discrimination. Color discrimination occurs when an employee or applicant is treated unfavorably based on the complexion, or color, of their skin.
Keep in mind that many states offer more protections based on race and color. If you are in Mississippi, contact Watson & Norris, PLLC to get a better understanding of our state's laws on race discrimination. This is also important because the process to address race discrimination in the workplace varies from state to state, too.
Types of Racial Discrimination in the Workplace in Mississippi
Discrimination based on race is rarely carried out in a direct, overt manner. Most employers will not tell an applicant they are not getting the position because they are Asian, Indian, or black. Most employers will not tell you that your co-worker who is white got the job because they are white. Race or color discrimination happens in less overt ways through what are known as disparate treatment and disparate impact.
Disparate treatment, often viewed as intentional discrimination, occurs when people of one race are treated differently than people of another race. For example, a store may hire both white people and black people, but only the white employees interact with customers while the black employees work behind the scenes stocking or packing products. Disparate treatment can occur in other ways, too, like giving better benefits to employees of one race over another race or reprimanding employees differently for the same poor performance or poor behavior.
Disparate impact can be unintentional and occurs when a facially neutral company policy, procedure, process, or requirement has an adverse effect on employees of a certain race or color. For example, an employer may have a policy prohibiting the hiring of people who have a criminal record, but people with a criminal record impact black and brown people more than white people.
Examples of Race/Color Discrimination in Mississippi
While some types of racial and color discrimination are obvious, others are more subtle. Having examples of known unlawful race or color discrimination is probably one of the best ways to understand if, in your unique situation, you may be experiencing racial discrimination that is also unlawful. Below are descriptions of some of the more common ways people experience race discrimination in Mississippi.
Racial harassment is pervasive in many workplaces. Harassment involves the use of racial slurs, racist jokes, and offensive messages by anyone in the workplace. Harassment must create a hostile work environment, meaning simple teasing – even if harmful – does not constitute unlawful racial harassment.
Stereotyping occurs when the same characteristics are assumed in all members of a certain group. Personal differences are not taken into consideration. Generally speaking, stereotyping focuses on negative traits and is based on false beliefs and misconceptions.
As a type of stereotyping, racial profiling occurs when stereotypes about race drive an action that is taken for public protection, safety, or security. Race is used as a basis for suspecting or accusing a person of having engaged in illegal activity.
Associational discrimination occurs when a person is treated in an unfavorable manner due to their association with a person of a different race. They could be the person's spouse, other family members, or friends.
Racial prejudice occurs when a person has preconceived notions about someone based solely on their race. Due to these negative feelings, they treat the person as less than others.
While most racism occurs between two people of different races, it is possible for racism to occur between two people of the same race. Treating someone less favorably due to their race is still racism no matter the race of the person committing the unfair acts.
What Should Employers in Mississippi Do to Prevent Race Discrimination?
Employers should be proactive to prevent racial discrimination from occurring at their place of business. Following are some of the steps they can take to ensure this type of misconduct does not occur at their company.
Perhaps one of the most important things an employer can do is provide clear, inclusive training to all employees, from top leadership to anyone that works for the company. Training should be clear on what is, and what is not, tolerated. A company culture that embraces differences should be welcomed by all.
Also, training is not something that should happen just once or only when a new employee starts their job. It should be done on a regular basis, incorporating any new legal developments.
Use Neutral Criteria In Hiring
Employers should make certain that the criteria used in hiring new employees are neutral, and are not unfairly biased toward a certain person or group of people. Criteria should be based on the duties and functions of the position. The pool of candidates for all positions should be diverse.
Establish Fair Standards For Promotion
Promotion criteria should be known to all employees. This also includes making all employees aware of when a new position becomes available. Criteria should be fair across the board. Promotions and raises should be based on an employee's performance of their job duties.
Zero Tolerance and Established Punishment Protocols
Leadership needs to be clear that discriminatory behaviors will not be tolerated, including what that constitutes and what the penalties may be for it. These rules must be enforced fairly and evenly with all employees. Also, when a complaint is made by an employee, the employer should have a protocol in place to prevent retaliation when a person complains about racial discrimination.
What Should Employees in Mississippi Do if Discriminated Against Based on Race or Skin Color?
When an employee is discriminated against based on their race or the color of their skin, there are multiple steps to take.
- Report the racial discrimination. You should report any indication of discrimination to your superiors or human resources. Of course, many people are worried about reporting it because they fear retaliation in the form of termination or demotion – and that is a valid fear because it happens more than you might think. You are protected by federal and state laws against retaliatory measures taken by an employer, but that is not too much comfort when you depend on your paycheck.
- File a claim. It depends if you are pursuing federal or state remedies (or both), but for federal claims, you must file a claim before you can sue. The same – filing an administrative claim – is true for most states.
- Document everything. From the first recollection of any type of racial discrimination (against you or even someone else) to who did it, what it was, who you reported the discrimination to, what action (if any) was taken, etc. Any details may prove insightful and beneficial to your case.
- Contact Watson & Norris, PLLC. This step may be the first step you take, especially if you fear reporting discrimination. We can be at your side throughout, guiding you, negotiating on your behalf, and filing claims and a subsequent lawsuit, if it comes to that.
In the end, racial discrimination is wrong. It is damaging to the recipient of the discrimination. It is damaging to workplace culture. And it is damaging to our economy. If you have suffered racial discrimination, you deserve compensation and whatever other remedies are available to you.
Contact an Employment Law Attorney in Mississippi Today
Racial discrimination is illegal in the workplace, as it is in other areas of life – like housing. No one should be subjected to discrimination based on the color of their skin. At Watson & Norris, PLLC, our employment lawyer in Mississippi helps clients who have suffered harm because of racial discrimination in the workplace. To learn more about unlawful employment discrimination and to determine if you have a case, contact us either by filling out the online form or calling us at 601-968-0000 to schedule a free initial consultation.