My Boss is Making Racist Comments. What Should I do?

In the workplace, racial discrimination is illegal. Employers who participate in or allow unlawful racial discrimination may be liable to their employees for damages. The New York employment discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates can help people who are dealing with hostile and uncomfortable situations at work. If your boss or a coworker is making racists comments, schedule a consultation with Phillips & Associates. In the meantime, you can take these steps to help protect yourself.

Know Your Rights Under Federal, State, and Local Law

There are multiple laws designed to protect New York employees from racist comments or slurs in the workplace. Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes verbal remarks, such as racial slurs, that create a hostile or offensive work environment illegal. This law also covers jokes, comments, or slurs that unreasonably impact an employee’s performance. Title VII only covers employers who have 15 or more people working for them. Employees who successfully sue under Title VII may be eligible for compensatory or punitive damages.

Similarly, the New York State Human Rights Law is intended to protect workers from humiliating or offensive comments, jokes, or slurs regarding an employee’s race or ethnicity. This state law, which allows for both compensatory and punitive damages, has broader coverage in New York than Title VII, since it covers employers with as few as four employees.

Further, employees in New York City who have experienced discriminatory harassment on the basis of race can seek redress under the New York City Human Rights Law. As under the federal and state anti-discrimination laws, workers who successfully sue under the city standard may be entitled to compensatory and punitive damages.

Document All Incidents

Whether your situation ends with a lawsuit, a formal complaint, or internally within your own company, it will be important for you to have proof of the inappropriate behavior. In the face of a denial by the perpetrator asserting that the abusive behavior did not occur, a detailed account of your situation will be invaluable.

Write down or document each specific instance in which racist comments or other inappropriate discriminatory actions occur, and keep your notes in a safe place to which others do not have access. Be sure to include the time, place, and nature of each transgression. If the racist behavior takes the form of emails or written correspondence, keep a copy or take a picture with your personal cell phone, as long as this does not violate any privacy laws or other agreements. Remember that any evidence you gather could be useful in the future.

Report the Abuse to Management

If practicable, try to report the behavior to management or your human resources department. If your boss is the person making racist comments, this may be difficult. But if you are able to report the abuse, your employer will not be able to deny that it was aware of the situation. In addition, large companies are keenly aware that racist and discriminatory practices are illegal. If you report the incident, your employer might take action to stop it, saving you time and the trouble of filing a lawsuit.

File a Complaint With the EEOC

If your employer does not rectify the situation, or if you are unable to report the discrimination, your next step should be to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The federal law that makes discrimination illegal, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, requires that you report the discrimination to the EEOC before you are able to file a lawsuit in federal court.

Speak with an Experienced Discrimination Attorney

It is best to consult an attorney at the first signs of unlawful racial discrimination. However, if you are subjected to racist comments and reported the behavior to management without success, you should contact an attorney before filing a complaint with the EEOC. An experienced discrimination attorney will know how to file the complaint in a way that maximizes efficiency and best protects your rights.

You do not have to tolerate racist comments or other racial discrimination at work. If you believe that your rights have been violated, speak to a New York race discrimination lawyer at Phillips & Associates. Our firm has helped countless New Yorkers protect their rights at work, and we will work hard to do the same for you. Send us an email or call (212) 248-7431 to schedule a confidential consultation.

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