The Lacy Employment Law firm

The Lacy Employment Law firm

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Racial discrimination lawyers

Racial Discrimination Lawyers help provide racial equity.

You are experiencing something at work, but you can’t put your finger on it. Or maybe you can.  Perhaps your boss calls you by your first name and everyone else by their last name.  

Even worse, maybe someone called you a racial epithet at work.  

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employers from discriminating against you on the basis of your skin.  If you have experienced any form of discrimination, you might want to call a racial discrimination lawyer.

A lawyer can help you:

  • Craft legal theories
  • Identify documents/witnesses;
  • Advise on how to approach a conversation with your supervisor;
  • Prepare you for an investigation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”)
  • File a Case in federal court
  • Negotiate a settlement;
  • Take your case to trial; and
  • Provide other necessary legal assistance

Although you may feel trapped in a workplace that does not respect who you are, you have more options than you might think.  You not only have the power to notice your employer of discrimination, but you can file a discrimination lawsuit proving its existence.

When you bring your Title VII Race Discrimination Case you should you remember:

  • Legal framework;  you have to prove that your employer discriminated against you “because of race.”
  • “Because of race” does not include cultural elements.   
  • Racial discrimination must be because of immutable characteristics.  That means something you cannot change.
  • You cannot punish someone’s thoughts.  It’s not illegal to hold prejudices.  You just cannot act on them.
  • Direct evidence is best.  A prime example is your supervisor using racial slurs.
  • If you cannot find direct evidence, you will have to use circumstantial evidence.

An experienced race discrimination lawyer can help you prove your case.  Below, we’ll talk about what you should remember when bringing your case.  And, in more detail, how an employment lawyer can shape your case.

The Legal Framework

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 created a framework of rights for minorities.  Title VII of that statute, prohibited employers from discriminating on the basis of race in any employment decision.

Employers are barred from discriminating in hiring, firing, promotion, pay raises, and in any other employment decision.

To prove a race discrimination claim, you have to prove that you suffered adverse employment because of your race.  “Because of race” is the hard part.

Racial Discrimination Does not Include Culture

Courts have not interpreted race to include cultural elements.   Employment disputes often arise where a certain race’s culture is at issue with employment policies.  For example, African-Americans tend to wear their hair differently than other races.  

These hair styles can include dreadlocks, braids, a natural, curly hairstyle, etc.  If your employer institutes a policy against “excessive hairstyles,” you might think that discrimination has occurred.  Especially if your employer fires you for not cutting your hair.

Race discrimination claims happen. Racial Discrimination Lawyers can help.[Should she have to cut off her hair to find a job?]

Race discrimination claims, however, must pertain to an immutable characteristic based on race.  This means that you cannot change the characteristic.

That is, courts have found that employers may prohibit hairstyles associated with African-Americans.  Their reasoning is that these hairstyles are mutable.  This means that black employees have the choice in cutting their hair.

As long as the policy is race-neutral, employers can enact policies that indirectly and disproportionately affect a certain minority group.   

Prejudice does not Mean Racism

Racism and prejudice are closely intertwined.  I would best define prejudice as the gateway to racism.

There is no legal recourse for prejudice.  Title VII does not protect people against those who prejudge others.

This is because prejudice is not racism.  Rather, it is a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.  That’s it. When it comes to race in the workplace, it is not illegal to have prejudices.

In fact, most people have preconceived notions.  For example, in the media, black people are often portrayed in a more negative light than white people.  And, of course, the media influences how we view people of a certain race.

Prejudice can Turn Into Workplace Discrimination

It should come as no surprise that people do not leave their prejudices at the door.  Rather, they bring them into the workplace.  That’s what is so hard about proving race discrimination in the workplace.

It is not illegal to think a certain way.  It is, however, illegal to act in a way that discriminates.  A race discrimination lawyer’s job is to figure out when prejudices turn into racial discrimination.

You cannot prove race discrimination because you think someone is prejudiced.  You have to prove that the prejudice turned into an adverse employment action. If someone thinks but does not act, the law has not been violated.

Racial Discrimination is more than Racial Slurs

Direct evidence is usually the best way to prove race discrimination.  An example of direct evidence someone calling you a racial epithet.  I’m not going to list them.  But you know what is the most famous, the n-word.

If you catch your supervisor calling someone the n-word.  And that person is fired.  Guess what, he/she would have a great case for race discrimination.

But in the 21st century, most people avoid this word and other racial slurs.  There has certainly been a rise recently in their usage.  Still, by and large, people know not to sue these slurs in the workplace.

Discrimination in the Workplace is Proven Through Circumstantial Evidence

So, how do you prove racial discrimination?  You do it through circumstantial evidence.  Circumstantial evidence means that you are piecing together bits of evidence to prove your case.

You do not have the racial slur, but that is okay.  You can prove your case through circumstantial evidence such as comparator evidence.

The best piece of evidence, next to racial slurs, is that your supervisor treated another group of people more favorably than you.

In most cases, you would want to find evidence that your supervisor treated a group of white males better than you and a group of minorities.  

That’s the evidence that makes most race discrimination employment cases. 

Another important piece of evidence is pretext.  Pretext means that your employer’s stated reason is not the real reason.  

If your employer says that you are a terrible worker, but your performance reviews are great, then you may be able to prove pretext.  Better yet, your employer keeps changing the reason why you were fired after the fact.

A final point, you might also have a hostile work environment.  Although this is not technically workplace discrimination, it still falls under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  

Basically, we’ll allege that your supervisor created a toxic environment.  Unfortunately, that’s a common place for African-American employees. 

Where the Law is Headed

As discussed above, racial slurs are normally the smoking gun in the employment law world.  You usually never actually catch someone using this word in the workplace.  People are smarter now, than they were in the 1960s.  Or are they?

When Justice Amy Coney Barret was a judge, she decided an employment case regarding the use of the n-word, a hateful racial slur.  At the same, she sat as a federal appellate judge.  An appellate judge hears cases after a party challenges a lower court’s ruling. 

Federal appellate judges are very powerful.  They only ascend to this position with the president’s appointment.  They get to keep their job for life.  And they usually went to the best law schools and graduated with stellar grades.  In addition to being powerful, they are also smart.  

Judge Barrett heard a case where an employer fired the plaintiff (the person suing).  Plaintiff claimed that the plaintiff’s supervisor called him the n-word.  If true, this would be a race discrimination lawyer’s dream at trial.

Judge Barret did not decide that the plaintiff’s claim was not true.  Rather, she determined that the supervisor’s use of the n-word was not in-and-of-itself sufficient to establish a race discrimination claim.

Judge Barrett found that the use of the-n word must alter “the conditions of his employment and create[] a hostile or abusive working environment.” 

That’s rough.  For black Americans, the use of that word does alter the conditions of employment.  Even one time the word uttered.

Regardless, Judge Barrett’s decision remains important.  The ultimate appellate court, the Supreme Court, interprets employment laws.  

And the Supreme Court trends more conservative with each passing year.  The Supreme Court has the power to grant more employment protections (see LBTQ employment).  Or it can actually take them away. 

Racial Discrimination Lawyers provide justice. 

Should you File a Claim of Race Discrimination?

Determining whether you should file a claim for race discrimination is not something that you should take lightly.  You first should consider what you hope to achieve.

For some, the goal is to address a wrong.  That’s probably the best reason to file a claim.  If employees are unwilling to stand up to employers, then they will continue to discriminate.

For others, it’s about money.  There is nothing wrong with that.  In civil cases, the law punishes employers by making them may money.  And the law compensates employment discrimination victims with compensation.  

Contrary to popular belief, suing for money is not wrong. It’s exactly how our civil system is designed to work.

Consider the Time

You should consider how long your suit will take.  You first have to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) before doing anything else.  

How to file a charge of Employment Discrimination. Information from Racial Discrimination Lawyers.

The EEOC is an administrative agency.  Before you file a lawsuit, you have to allow the EEOC to investigate after you filing your charge.  A charge is a discrimination complaint against your employer.  

You can file a charge yourself or have a lawyer help you.  You can go to the EEOC’s website for instructions.  

I recommend finding a lawyer to help you.  Discrimination attorneys normally work on contingency.  This means that they do not take money unless you win your case.  Even at the EEOC, stage you could get a free consultation and hire an attorney without cost to you.

The EEOC will investigate for an average of six months.  After that, you take your case to federal court.  After you are in federal court, you will:

  • File a complaint in federal court;
  • Exchange written discovery;
  • Attend mediation;
  • Take depositions;
  • Attend a settlement conference;
  • Oppose a Motion for Summary judgment;
  • File pretrial motions;
  • Have a jury trial;
  • File post-trial motions;

Taking a case from the EEOC stage to trial can take about 2-3 years from the time you file the charge. 

You will not, however, be going to trial in every case.  In the majority of the cases, you will settle. And by the majority, I mean over 90%. Settlement can take place at any time between filing the charge and trial.  

You can realistically expect a settlement between six months to a year after you file a charge.

In making your decision to sue, you should consider and plan for the amount of time your case will take. 

Race Discrimination Lawsuit Settlements

Race discrimination cases are amongst the hardest employment law cases.  I know that they are considered employment law cases, but I consider them civil rights cases.

To obtain a good settlement, your case has to intimidate the other side.  That means that you employer must believe that you have a good chance at trial.  For race discrimination claims, you probably do not have a great chance.

Research has shown that employees are unlikely to win at trial in employment cases.  

And race discrimination cases are harder than other types of employment cases.  In most federal juries, you will see few to none minorities on the jury.  This makes for a more conservative jury.  

More conservative juries favor employers rather than employees.  And employers know that they have a much better chance of winning at trial.  Thus, they offer less, especially in race discrimination cases.

The best settlements we see for race discrimination suits are where the race claim is coupled with a retaliation claim.

Comparator Evidence is Crucial

For a race claim, your best bet is finding comparator evidence.  This means that you would have to hope that your employer fired more people of your race than then people of another race.  And you really won’t know that until you start the discovery process.

Statistics have shown that the average employment case settlement is $40,000.

The best way to achieve a higher settlement is to have another claim in addition to your race discrimination claim.  Race discrimination lawsuit settlements tend to be higher when coupled with a retaliation claim.

Retaliation Can Boost Employment Discrimination Claims

Retaliation occurs when an employer acts in a way that adversely affects your employment.  This could mean demotion, termination, failure to promote, failure to hire, ect.  If you suspect that your employer discriminated against you, look for retaliations.

You should remember that you have to actually report the discrimination.  This is necessary for a retaliation claim, which requires you to engage in protected conduct.  Engaging in protected conduct means, amongst other things, that you reported the discrimination.

Reporting the discrimination is important.  Oftentimes employers retaliate soon after an employee reports.  Adversely affecting your employment right after you report discrimination is direct evidence is direct evidence of retaliation.  

And this type of direct evidence normally sits well with the jury.  It’s easy for them to understand.  They normally understand that you believed you were discriminated against.  And that because you reported it, your employer decided to adversely affect your employment.

Because retaliation claims are easy for a jury to digest, they increase your chances of winning at trial.  And because your chances of winning at trial are better, employers have to offer more money to settle your case.

An employment lawyer can help you determine your options here.  You may want to talk through whether you should report before you do it.

Mediation Facilitates Racial Discrimination Lawsuit Settlements 

In employment cases, the parties normally agree at some point in the litigation to mediate.  In a meditation a third party helps the employer and the employer to reach a settlement.

The mediation normally asks both parties to write a mediation statement for the mediator to review.  This is done prior to the mediation.  The mediator will read the statements and form an opinion on both parties’ strengths and weaknesses in their respective cases.

Hiring a lawyer skilled in writing is important.  Drafting a persuasive mediation statement can sway the mediation into believing that your case is stronger than the employers.

Both parties will then attend mediation.  The mediator will often ask both parties to give a quick argument on why they have a strong cases.  Then, the mediator will likely separate both parties.  

And, usually, the mediator will have the parties go into separate rooms.  If virtual, the mediator will usually have separate Zoom rooms.  

The mediator will then go back and forth to each party.  Usually, the plaintiff opens with a demand.  This means a dollar amount that you are asking for in the case.  The mediator will then ask the employer for a counteroffer.

The parties will go back and forth.  Each party will continue to either lower their initial demand or raise their initial counteroffer.  The mediator will put pressure on each side to lower their number.  This usually means pointing out weaknesses in each side’s respective case.

Finally, the parties will reach a number on which they both agree.  And the case will settle.  Your lawyer will then work with the company’s lawyer to draft a settlement agreement.  You will sign the agreement.  And then get your money thereafter.  

This process is important to know because employment cases tend to settle at mediation.  You need a lawyer with good writing and negotiating skills.  You also need a lawyer that thoroughly understands the law and knows the facts of your case. 

Conclusion

Race discrimination lawsuits are hard to prove.  But they are not impossible.  You are going to be against big companies.  These companies will hire expensive lawyers.  And those lawyers are normally intelligent and skilled.

If you believe you have a case, remember:

  • You need to prove that your employer discriminated against you because of your race;
  • The litigation process is long;
  • Settlements are higher when retaliation is involved; and
  • A lawyer can help you evaluate your case before you file suit.

Not getting a promotion you deserve is tough.  Your employer firing you because of the way you look is worse.  Feeling like you have no way forward in your company is demoralizing.  You believe you know the reason.  What are you going to do about it?

The Lacy Employment Law Firm is here to help.  

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Get in touch!