Race Discrimination

The Law

The federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), and the Maine Human Rights Act, make it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against any individual on the basis of their race or skin color.  Section 1981 of the 1866 Civil Rights Act makes it unlawful for anyone to interfere with an individual’s right to make and enforce contracts based on that individual’s race.  Recent court decisions have affirmed that the “contractual relationships” protected under Section 1981 extend to employment relationships, even for “at-will” employees.   

What Does it Cover?

Race/color discrimination in the employment context typically involves treating an employee (or applicant for employment) less-favorably because of that employee’s race or physical characteristics (such as skin color, or hair texture).  The laws prohibiting race/color discrimination cover all aspects of employment, such as hiring, firing, rate of pay, promotions, training, and benefits. 

Obvious or Not?

Discrimination on the basis of race or color can be obvious (such as racial slurs, offensive remarks about a person’s race or color, or racially-hostile symbols).  However, harassment on the basis of race or color can also take less obvious forms (such as excluding an employee from advancement because of race/color, paying an employee less than their co-workers because of that employee’s race/color).  

Employers Liable for Supervisors and Co-Workers

An employer may be held liable for unlawful discrimination on the basis of race or color if the person who discriminates against them is a supervisor (someone able to hire/fire, or affect the terms and conditions of the victim’s employment).  An employer may also be liable for unlawful discrimination by an employee’s co-workers if the employer is made aware of the unlawful conduct and fails or refuses to address it.  A common example of this is when an employee reports to their supervisor or HR that a co-worker is harassing them based on their race/color, and the supervisor or HR ignore the reports.

Contact the Race Descrimination lawyers at Clifford & Clifford to discuss your case.