Disparate Treatment vs. Disparate Impact Discrimination
Racial discrimination can manifest in many different ways, but two of the most common types are disparate treatment and disparate impact discrimination.
Disparate Treatment Discrimination
Disparate treatment alleges that an employer singled out certain employees and treated them differently than others in similar positions because of their race. For example, an employer may only promote employees of a certain race to supervisory positions or they might only let workers of a certain race handle customers. They might discriminate on the basis of physical characteristics such as skin color, hair texture, facial features, or any other traits associated with a particular race.
Disparate Impact Discrimination
In contrast, disparate impact discrimination does not claim that employers singled out employees of a certain race. Instead, it may claim that the employer's supposedly neutral policies impacted employees of a certain race disproportionately. For example, a policy that forbids hairstyles such as cornrow braids or dreadlocks not only cost black employees more money to maintain, but also make them feel less welcome in the workplace.
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Unfortunately, racial discrimination can be upheld in the workplace in a myriad of ways, including:
- Being physically segregated or isolated from employees of a different race
- Being excluded from activities that involve customer interaction when co-workers of another race are included
- Having your complaints ignored when you bring up incidents of racial discrimination that has made you feel uncomfortable
- Being refused a promotion for a position that was ultimately filled by an applicant of a different race who was less qualified
- Being laid off along with other people in your racial group while employees of another racial group were retained
- Not getting benefits or opportunities to advance within the organization that employees of another race are getting
Notable Racial Discrimination Cases
One of the most notable racial discrimination cases in recent years took place in May 2017. Rosebud Restaurants agreed to pay $1.9 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against 13 Chicago-area restaurants. The restaurants were charged with refusing to hire black applicants and using racial slurs. As a result, a monetary award was paid to the applicants who were denied jobs. Additionally, the restaurants agreed to implement hiring standards that required at least 11 percent of its workforce to be African-American.
A few years earlier, in 2013, U-Haul agreed to pay $750,000 to a group of 8 current and former black employees. The employees had been subjected to racial slurs from their supervisor on a regular basis. When one of them complained of the harassment to the company's president, they were fired. The company now must maintain an anti-discrimination policy that prohibits racial harassment and retaliation, in addition to other measures.
What To Do If You Are Facing Racial Harassment
Here are a few steps you can take if you are experiencing racial harassment at work:
- Tell the Harasser the Conduct is Unwelcome: Inform your harasser that his or her behavior is unwelcome and that it must stop. You can do this verbally, in writing, or through your actions.
- Report the Harasser: Report the harasser as soon as possible. In order to hold your employer legally responsible for the offender’s conduct, they must know that it occurred. Tell your supervisor, HR, or another person in a position of power within the company.
- Take Notes: Write down exactly what happened and be as specific as possible. The date, place, time, and witnesses all matter. If there are witnesses, ask them to document what happened in writing.
- Maintain Your Records: Your harasser may try to defend his or her conduct by attacking your job performance, so gather copies of performance evaluations and any other written statements about the quality of your work. You should also keep a record of any formal complaints you file.
Age Discrimination: Federal Protections for Older Employees
The ADEA is a federal law that specifically protects individuals aged 40 and over. For example, if you were fired because your company wants to hire younger employees willing to work for less money or if an employer refused to hire you because they wanted a younger-looking individual to do the job, you may be able to pursue an age discrimination lawsuit.
The ADEA also guards against harassment in the workplace. While casual joking is not considered illegal, harassment may involve offensive or derogatory remarks about your age. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, harassment includes any actions that are frequent and severe enough to create a hostile or offensive workplace.
The Older Workers Benefit Protection Act of 1990 (OWBPA) amended the ADEA to provide additional protections and prevent employers from denying benefits to older employees. Under this act, it is illegal for an employer to fire you to avoid paying your pension or because your benefits are too costly.
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However, your employer is only required to follow the “equal benefits or equal cost” rule. If the company elects to pay a flat fee for monthly premiums for all workers, this policy does not violate the OWBPA, even if it results in lesser benefits for older workers than younger ones.