Discrimination based on color – skin pigment, complexion, shade, or lightness or darkness – is illegal. Color is a separate protected category under Title VII, the primary federal law that prohibits workplace discrimination.
Discrimination based on race and color often overlap. Discrimination because of race means race is the reason, or at least a motivating factor, in an employer’s adverse treatment of an applicant or employee. Discrimination based on race or color can also occur when an employer’s neutral policy or practice disproportionately disadvantages employees of a particular race and there is no legitimate business reason to justify the policy or practice.
An employment policy or practice that applies to everyone, regardless of race or color, can be illegal if it has a negative impact on the employment of people of a particular race or color and is not job-related and necessary to the operation of the business.
Remember! It is unlawful to harass a person because of that person’s race or color!
The EEOC gives us some guidance in its Compliance Manual on Race and Color Discrimination. “Color” means:
pigmentation, complexion, or skin shade or tone. Thus, color discrimination occurs when a person is discriminated against based on the lightness, darkness, or other color characteristic of the person. Even though race and color clearly overlap, they are not synonymous. Thus, color discrimination can occur between persons of different races or ethnicities, or between persons of the same race or ethnicity.
The EEOC also provides some hypothetical examples of color discrimination:
- An African American employer violates Title VII if she refuses to hire other African Americans whose skin is either darker or lighter than his/her own. For example, it would be an act of unlawful color discrimination for an employer to refuse to hire a dark-skinned person to work at a cosmetics counter because the vendor prefers a “light skinned representative.”
- A dark-complexioned African American manager violates Title VII if he frequently makes offensive jokes and comments about the skin color of a light-complexioned subordinate. This example is based on the EEOC’s settlement of a claim against Applebee’s.
The law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.
If you faced with some of them, do not hesitate to contact a qualified and experienced lawyer! You may find him on Legal Bistro, an online legal community where lawyers are brought together with consumers with legal needs. You just need to register and post your case in Legal Bistro system!