How to Prove Racial Discrimination in the Workplace

Racial discrimination at work occurs when an employer treats someone such as a job applicant or employee unfavorably because he or she is of a particular race or has personal characteristics associated with a race, like hair texture, color of skin, or noticeable facial features.

Racial discrimination may also involve treating somebody unfavorably because that person is married to or is closely associated with somebody of a specific race or color.

Title VII of the Human Rights Act, 1964, forbids all forms of racial discrimination when employment is involved, including pay equality, hiring, firing, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training and fringe benefits.

How to Prove Racial Discrimination

Direct racial discrimination is generally easier to prove because evidence that discrimination has occurred should be easier to obtain. The evidence could be in the form of:

  • Communication you have recorded or collected showing that a decision was made because of your racial group. This may include emails, text messages, written letters, even voice recordings.
  • Witness statements from other employees of the same racial group as yourself who have experienced the same or similar discrimination as yourself showing that a pattern of racial discrimination occurs.

Indirect discrimination is a little harder to prove as it must show a relationship between a specific policy or action taken by the employer that indirectly excludes all members of the same racial group as yourself because of an attribute shared by that group, e.g. hair type or because of the accent required for promotion. As with direct discrimination examples, evidence may be in the form of:

  • Evidence of a rule or action which excludes a group or makes it more difficult for that group to meet the criteria. Evidence could be in the form of written instructions or rules, messages from the employer, posters showing new criteria which are discriminatory etc.

To be able to prove that racial discrimination has occurred, you must have clear and convincing evidence that each of the four following criteria have been met.

  • You belong to one of the protected classes as defined by Title VII of the Human Rights Act, 1964, which include race, color, gender, gender orientation, religion and age.
  • You, as the employee, must be qualified for the job in question, i.e. show that you have not been discriminated against because of a lack of qualifications or experience.
  • Your employer must have taken an adverse action against you such as refusing to hire you, not pay you the same as other similar employees, prevented you from getting promotion, or other benefits such as a pay rise.
  • It must be clear that your employer deliberately took the adverse action against you because of their discriminatory attitudes or beliefs.

Recognizing Racial Discrimination in the Workplace

Racial discrimination can be direct or indirect. Direct racial discrimination occurs when an employer discriminates against an employee directly because of an attribute that they have because they belong to a protected class as determined by Title VII of the Human Rights Act, 1964.

Indirect discrimination is a more nuanced definition. It occurs not because an employer has discriminated against you directly, but because a condition of work means that all members of a protected class are affected unfavorably and you are then a victim of indirect discrimination because you belong to that group.

For example, if there is a minimum height criterion for a job, this might be discriminatory against certain racial groups such as Asians, or Latinos, who may be of less average height compared to other racial groups.

The indirect discrimination is not in itself deliberate but still negatively affects the chances of individuals of a certain racial group regardless. This type of discrimination is equally forbidden by Title VII of the Human Rights Act, 1964.

Additional Resources