Fighting For NJ Employees Against Color Discrimination
Color discrimination, also called colorism or shadeism, is a specific form of racial discrimination in which a person is treated negatively due to their skin color complexion. Whereas racial discrimination happens when a person is a member of a certain race, color discrimination affects people who have, for example, a lighter or darker skin tone. This type of discrimination can happen even if the victim and perpetrator are of the same race.
Color discrimination, along with all other forms of racial discrimination, is a serious problem for both employers and employees that can damage the morale and reputation of a workplace, diminish the dignity and livelihood of employees, and result in costly lawsuits. From our offices in Red Bank, NJ, and Marlton, NJ, McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. represents both employees and employers throughout the state in a wide range of employment discrimination matters, including color discrimination. Our employment discrimination attorneys will provide you with a clear and candid evaluation of any potential claims, as well as all legal options available to you.
Discrimination Based on Skin Color in the Workplace
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other laws strictly prohibit employers from discriminating against current and potential employees on the basis of their color, race, or national origin. Still, color discrimination is a significant problem in many workplaces. Year after year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ranks race discrimination as the most commonly reported type of workplace discrimination, making up about one third of total charges, with color discrimination charges specifically making up 4.7% of charges. In 2019 alone, 3,415 complaints were filed with the EEOC for color discrimination charges with a total payout of $13.7 million.
Unfortunately, many more instances of color discrimination go unreported. This may be because the victim is unsure whether they were truly discriminated against, or worry that it will be too difficult to prove. They may even fear termination or other forms of retaliation. When this is the case, victims are advised to consult an attorney for help and legal guidance. Only experienced and reputable employment discrimination attorneys will understand how to recognize and prove a true case of color discrimination in the workplace.
Color Discrimination Protections Under NJ State Law
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) makes it illegal to discriminate against employees or prospective employees on the basis of their color, race, gender, age, sexual orientation, and several other distinguishing factors. While Title VII applies only to companies with 15 or more employees, all New Jersey companies – regardless of their size – must abide by the NJLAD. If an employee chooses to pursue an action for racial discrimination under the NJLAD, they may either file a complaint with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights (DCR) or file a lawsuit in the Superior Court of New Jersey. However, filing with DCR is not required in New Jersey to bring a lawsuit. An experienced employment law attorney should be consulted prior to the filing of any claim of discrimination to give you a full overview of your rights and options.
What Qualifies as Color Discrimination in NJ?
Discrimination based on skin color in the workplace can cover a broad spectrum of activity specifically targeting people because of their skin color, including:
- Termination or Demotion
- Failure to Recruit or Hire
- Differential Treatment or Pay
- Withholding Training, Promotions or Career Advancement
- Being Subjected to Harassment or Increased Scrutiny
- Racist Jokes or Uncomfortable Discussion of Race/Color
- The Use of Racial Slurs or Stereotypes, or Display of Racist Symbols
- The Existence of a Hostile Work Environment with Severe and Pervasive Harassment
- Terminating or Disciplining an Employee in Retaliation for Making a Complaint
Color discrimination can present itself in a variety of ways, from overtly racist acts, to more subtle – though no less damaging – insensitivity. Discrimination can come from an employer, coworker, or client, even if they are the same race as the victim. Telling or laughing at racially-charged or color-based jokes in the workplace may seem like harmless fun to some, but this sort of behavior can contribute to a hostile work environment for those on the receiving end. Similarly, asking a coworker inappropriate questions about their skin color, or making comments about how they look like or can pass as another race, can make that employee uncomfortable to the extent that it interferes with their ability to perform their job duties. Color discrimination can also occur when someone is treated unfavorably because they are married to someone with a certain skin color. In any of these scenarios, employees who feel they have been harassed or intimidated because of their skin color should bring their concerns to the attention of a supervisor as soon as possible.
Color Discrimination vs. Racial Discrimination
Skin color is defined by the courts as pigmentation, shade, tone, or complexion. It may or may not be a characteristic of race. If an employee is treated differently than another employee of the same race who has a lighter shade of skin color, or because they have been mistaken as a different race, they have been a victim of color discrimination as opposed to racial discrimination.
Representing Employers in Color Discrimination Cases
Employers are responsible for creating a workplace atmosphere where discrimination is not encouraged or tolerated. The most important thing for employers is to take proactive measures to prevent, investigate, address, and defend any possible claims of discrimination. Employers facing accusations of discrimination must work closely with lawyers who can develop the strongest possible defenses to these claims. Our firm represents a wide range of employers to defend color discrimination or racial discrimination claims.
Experienced NJ Color Discrimination Attorneys Can Help You
Whenever you feel you are being discriminated against in the workplace because of your skin color, or you witness the discrimination of another, it is important to report it to your employer. If the employer fails to take action to correct the situation, you can reach out to the experienced color discrimination attorneys at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. We will review the details of your case and help you determine your best course of action for filing a claim. We can also defend you if you are an employer facing a claim of discrimination. Contact us today to discuss your case.