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What does Title VII say about color or race discrimination?

No one should feel denied the right to work based on superficial factors such as race and skin color. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from doing just that. Sounds good, right? Well, this may be one of the most misunderstood parts of Title VII.

Many people believe that the protections against race or color discrimination provided by Title VII are limited to race such as African American, Mexican American and Asian American, among others. However, that isn't the whole story.

Race and color are not necessarily the same thing

According to court interpretations of Title VII, your "color" refers to your complexion, skin tone or shade and pigmentation. These factors vary widely even within each race. Therefore, the Act prohibits discrimination against anyone based on the color of his or her skin. Many people do not realize that this also applies to Caucasians.

If a Caucasian files a claim of discrimination under Title VII, it is often referred to reverse discrimination, and many courts require a higher standard of proof, but the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission does not. Each person making a claim to the EEOC must meet the same standard of proof despite his or her color.

Race includes more than an ethnic group

Many ethnic groups follow their own cultural characteristics, traditions and practices. Employers cannot disqualify an individual based on any of those factors either. For instance, African Americans tend to contract sickle cell anemia more often than other races. Employers cannot discriminate against an African American based on this characteristic.

However, if there is a business necessity for restricting individuals with certain characteristics from employment, a company may do so.

Race and color protections under Title VII

Regardless of your race or color, you are entitled to the following when it comes to employment opportunities:

  • To receive equal compensation, benefits and privileges that come with the job
  • To receive equal consideration regarding hiring, recruitment and advancement
  • To remain free from retaliation, discrimination and harassment
  • To remain free from segregation in the workplace
  • To remain free from race and color pre-employment requirements and inquiries

If an employer fails to adhere to any of these protections, you may suffer from discrimination.

What you can do about it

If you believe that your employer discriminates against you in some way due to your color or race, you may have legal options available to you. In order to understand your rights and know what to do next, it may be helpful to talk to an Oregon employment law attorney.

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