Discrimination Based upon Race, Color, or National Origin

Woman Holding Scales of Justice

  • Discrimination in hiring, firing, layoffs, transfers, promotions, etc.
  • Harassment or Hostile Environments Because of Race Color or National Origin
  • Title VII provides for legal actions against employers
  • 42 U.S.C. Section 1981 provides for legal actions against employers, coworkers, and others
  • Damages payable for emotional distress and lost pay
  • Punitive damages and attorney fees

Race discrimination is harassment or adverse treatment because of race or because of personal characteristics associated with race. Color discrimination involves treating someone unfavorably because of skin color or complexion. National origin discrimination involves treating someone unfavorably because they are from a particular country or region, because of their accent, or because of ethnic background. These types of discrimination also involve adverse treatment or harassment because of marriage, friendship or other associations with persons of a certain race, national origin, or color.

There are federal and state laws prohibiting race, color, and national origin discrimination, providing the right to bring lawsuits when it occurs, and providing money damages and equitable relief to those subjected to discrimination and harassment. Two noteworthy federal statues are Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and 42 U.S.C. Section 1981. These in conjunction with similar state statutes protect individuals from unlawful discrimination.

Unlawful discrimination can involve hiring, firing, transfers, customer preference, job segregation, pay, hostile work environments, and unlawful discharge. Preferential treatment in any of these areas, when based upon race, color, or national origin, is illegal.

Harassment can include, verbal slurs, offensive remarks, or the display of offensive symbols, offensive drawings, offensive pictures, or offensive jokes or cartoons. Although the law does not always penalize the offhand comments, or isolated incidents, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted), or causes severe emotional distress that interferes with one’s employment.

Depending upon circumstances, the harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.

A company that allows racial discrimination or harassment may be required to pay an employee for the injury and suffering caused by harassment and hostility inflicted by managers or co-workers.  A court may require a company or corporation to take corrective measures to end hostility and harassment on its premises and facilities.

Examples of Recent cases can be helpful in understanding the law of race, color, and national origin discrimination:


  • Race Discrimination Action against Bass Pro Shops The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Bass Pro Outdoor World LLC, parent company of Bass Pro Shops, for a “pattern or practice of unlawfully failing to hire black and Hispanic applicants.” Negotiations are ongoing in this class action law suit with the EEOC demanding $30 million, and Bass Pro offering $1.7 million. An EEOC analysis of.
  • Case Alleging National Origin and Race Discrimination Against Thai Farm Workers Settled $1.2 Million The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court of Hawaii in April 2011, charging that Global Horizons, a labor contractor, and others, engaged in conduct that constituted national origin and race discrimination, harassment and retaliation in their treatment of farm workers recruited from Thailand from 2003 through 2006.  The conduct as alleged conduct violates Title.
  • Lawsuit against Bakery for National Origin Harassment and Retaliation Peters’ Bakery, a business in San Jose, California, verbally abused an employee using ethnic and racial slurs, the EEOC has charged in a lawsuit.  Additionally, the EEOC alleged that the bakery retaliated against the employee by suing her in small claims court for defamation after she filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC. According to.