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Racial discrimination is still an issue in Illinois workplaces

People in Illinois may think that discrimination based on a person's race or color is a thing of the past. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Instances of racial discrimination still occur in the workplace far too often. It is important to understand what racial discrimination in the workplace looks like.

Racial discrimination takes place when a job applicant or worker is treated negatively due to his or her race. Race isn't limited to skin color in this case -- personal characteristics, such as certain facial features or hair types, also fall under the category of race. Racial discrimination can also take place if a job applicant or worker is treated negatively because he or she is wed to a person of another race. Racial discrimination isn't limited to people of different races. It can even occur between people of the same race as well.

Under federal law, racial discrimination in the workplace is illegal. This is true in all facets of the person's job, including being hired, being laid off, assignments given, being promoted, being given fringe benefits, being trained and more.

It is also illegal to harass someone based on race. Harassment takes many forms. It includes making racial slurs or derogatory or offensive statements or displaying racially-offensive symbols. Mere teasing isn't enough to constitute illegal harassment. The harassment must be so frequent or severe that it turns the workplace hostile or it is the basis of an adverse employment decision. Harassers can include any supervisors, co-workers or even people who do not work for that employer, such as a client or patron.

In addition, there cannot be employment policies that discriminate, even if they apply to all workers. An employment policy that has a negative impact on workers of a certain race and is not related to the job and is not required for business operations can be discriminatory.

If a person believes they are the victim of racial discrimination in the workplace, they need not suffer in silence. There are steps they can take to address the situation and seek compensation if necessary.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Race/Color Discrimination," accessed March 13, 2018

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