Despite claims several years ago that we live in a post-racial, post-feminist society, discrimination is alive and well in America. There are several federal statutes that prohibit discrimination on the basis of membership in protected classes, but employers continue to treat employees in disparate ways based on their identities rather than merit. Many of the federal statutes are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
To bring a lawsuit under any of these statutes, you must first file a charge with the EEOC within the appropriate time window. The EEOC may investigate, and only after it issues a notice of right to sue can you pursue a remedy in court. The EEOC’s determination that it will not pursue your claim any further doesn’t mean that you haven’t been a victim of discrimination based on your membership in a protected category, and it may still be worthwhile to pursue recourse through civil litigation. Your damages under laws such as Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) are capped based on the size of your employer.
In 2016, the EEOC noted 9,308 charges were filed in Texas alone. This was 10.2% of the total charges filed in the United States and very slightly down from 2015, when 9,539 charges were filed in Texas. Of the charges filed in 2016 in Texas, 3,244 were based on race, 403 were based on color, 2,765 were based on sex, 1,190 were based on national origin, and 358 were based on religion.
A 2015 CNN/Family Foundation poll on race in America determined that 69% of Black people and 57% of Hispanic people believe past and present discrimination is a major reason for problems faced by those of their race or ethnic group. About 26% of Black people and 15% of Hispanic people believe they were treated unfairly due to race or ethnicity in their workplace in the 30 days prior to the survey.
Even so, it can be very difficult to prove workplace discrimination for the purposes of bringing a civil lawsuit. There are instances of implicit bias in which a person of one race may unconsciously treat someone of a different race in a different way, and there are also microaggressions, which may be minor in the moment but can add up to a hostile work environment when they happen frequently enough. Sometimes workplaces may claim that a job applicant just isn’t a fit with the workplace culture, when what they really mean is that they have an issue with the person’s sex, ethnicity, race, or religion.
Even in workplaces that claim to be committed to diversity and equal opportunity, employers may be resistant to exploring the possibility that an employee experienced discrimination. Often, they try to rationalize their decisions by looking at small details about qualifications or performance. There are often comments expressed that relate to stereotypes about gender, race, or ethnicity that can be telling. When an employer is abusive only toward certain employees, this can be a sign of discrimination even if the employer insists he or she is not racist or sexist.
It can be important to obtain representation from an experienced employment lawyer when you have a dispute with your employer regarding discrimination or other matters. Contact us at (214) 528-6500 or via our online intake form.
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