Racial Discrimination

Under both California and federal law, racial discrimination in the workplace is illegal. It is illegal to discriminate against employees on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, ancestry, or national origin. The aforementioned characteristics are protected under the law. Other protected classes include: physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, marital status, sex, age, and sexual orientation.

Types of Discrimination

In addition to racial discrimination, discrimination comes in many other varieties. There is “disparate treatment” and “disparate impact” discrimination – meaning an employee is treated differently because they are a member of a protected class.

  • Disparate Treatment – involves employer actions, for example, promotion and termination, which single out an employee or group of employees because of a protected characteristic, i.e., only older workers are laid off or only males are promoted.
  • Disparate impact – involves employer policies that have a disproportionate adverse effect on a protected characteristic group, e.g., a company policy of counting all absences and leaves against seniority that has a disproportionate adverse impact on women who have to take time off for pregnancy.


As previously stated in addition to racial discrimination there are many other forms of discrimination. Harassment is another form of discrimination. Harassing conduct includes slurs, derogatory remarks, touching, unwanted advances, intimidation, etc., targeted at or regarding the employee’s protected characteristic. If harassment is pervasive in the workplace, it can lead to a hostile work environment. In the case of sexual harassment, harassment can be quid pro quo, which refers to a situation where the employee’s boss has conditioned job benefits or perks, in exchange for sexual favors.

If an employee is being harassed at work, the employer has the duty to take immediate remedial action. If the employer fails to take remedial action, the employer is liable for all of the employee’s damages, including emotional harm suffered. Furthermore, if the employee is being harassed by his/ her supervisor, the employer will be held strictly liable for the supervisor’s misconduct.

Federal versus State laws

Although federal and California employment laws are often similar, there are some differences. Federal law, which includes the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Equal Pay Act of 1963, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, is generally less favorable to employees than California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, which doesn’t have damage caps, limited attorney fee provisions, restrictive legal burdens of proof or special employer defenses.

Also, federal law typically requires the employee to file an administrative charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within a mere 180 days from the date of the discriminatory violation whereas California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act provides employees one year to file such a charge with the California Department of Fair Employment & Housing (DFEH).

Damage Awards

An employee who wins a racial discrimination lawsuit is entitled to recover several types of compensation, such as lost wages, emotional distress, litigation costs and statutory attorney fees. An employee could also recover punitive damages which are designed not to compensate the employee but to deter and punish the employer.


If you are an employee and believe that you’ve been a victim of racial discrimination or some other form of discrimination in the workplace please contact Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Ukiah racial discrimination attorney Daniel B. Beck and the racial discrimination labor and employment law attorneys at Beck Law P.C. to discuss your legal rights. We will arrange for a confidential consultation, discuss the particulars of your possible racial discrimination matter and help you to determine if you have a case.


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