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Five Potential Signs of Racial Discrimination in the Workplace

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects people from being discriminated against at work on the basis of race, religion, sex, nationality, or skin color. Unfortunately, some employers will discriminate against their employees anyway, with racial discrimination being a particularly persistent problem in workplaces across the country. Watch for these potential signs of racial discrimination, which may indicate a need to pursue legal action:

  • Lack of diversity in higher-ranked positions

    • One potential sign that a company may be engaging in racial discrimination is that there is a lack of diversity among its higher-level staff. While many companies are willing to hire people of color for low-level positions, a lack of racial diversity among management, executives, and board members can indicate a company that is discriminating against non-white employees. This is especially true if less experienced white people seem to be regularly promoted over more experienced people who are not white.

  • Lack of promotions or raises

    • For that matter, a lack of promotions or raises can also indicate racial discrimination at a company. When people work at a company for a certain period of time, generally they expect advancement in the form of better positions, better job titles, and better compensation. If you work at a company for a substantial length of time without any sign of advancement, that may indicate they have no intention to ensure you advance up the chain.

  • Uneven application of rules and discipline

    • Every company has internal rules that it must enforce, but not every company enforces its rules evenly. One way racial discrimination can manifest comes when someone breaks the rules. If a white employee can break a rule and walk away with a slap on the wrist while a non-white employee is formally disciplined, that may be a sign of discriminatory enforcement.

  • Hostile work environment

    • When people think of a hostile work environment in the context of racial discrimination, they may imagine people using racial slurs or other obviously derogatory remarks. However, in reality, it is rarely that overt, and instead typically manifests in more subtle forms of harassment and abuse. For example, someone may make inappropriate or offensive jokes, or violate your personal space, refuse to grant you requested time off, or even take steps to interfere with your ability to work.

  • Retaliation for reporting racial discrimination

    • You are legally permitted to report any racial discrimination you experience or witness without fear of retaliation, whether you report to your company’s Human Resources department or to a government agency like the EEOC. Unfortunately, that does not stop companies from trying, and many people who report discrimination may find themselves suffering professional consequences as a result. When that happens, you may need to speak to a lawyer to discuss your potential options.

Steven Mitchell Sack, the Employee’s Lawyer, is a New York employment lawyer with more than 41 years’ experience handling the many aspects of employment law. His new book, “Fired!: Protect Your Rights & FIGHT BACK If You’re Terminated, Laid Off, Downsized, Restructured, Forced to Resign or Quit,” is available in hardback, and contains valuable advice on dealing with employment and labor law issues. To purchase the book, feel free to contact Steven Sack at 917-371-8000 or visit the website at To inquire about a legal matter, please feel free to contact attorney Steven Sack at 917-371-8000 or

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