What is Actual vs. Perceived Race Discrimination?

What is actual vs. perceived race discrimination?

Race discrimination is being treated differently because of your race, whether you’re black or white or Asian or Hispanic. It doesn’t matter; you cannot be treated differently. The terms and conditions of your employment cannot be different because of your race. Now, that is actual race discrimination. There is also perceived race discrimination. So, for example, you might not be Middle Eastern, but supervisors and co-workers are treating you as if you were from the Middle East, maybe because you grew a beard and, although you have no Middle Eastern descent in you, they’re calling you a terrorist –things like that. That is perceived race discrimination, and that is also illegal.


Employment Attorneys Fighting for the Rights of New York City Workers

Race discrimination in the workplace occurs when an employee is treated differently because of their race, whether it is black, white, Asian, or Latino. Whatever your race, you may not be treated differently in the workplace or face different terms and conditions of employment because of it. You also may not be treated differently because your employer believes that you are of a different race than you are. It may be important to be aware of what is actual versus perceived race discrimination. At Phillips & Associates, our New York City race discrimination lawyers may be able to represent you if you are a victim of actual or perceived discrimination. Watch the video on this page to learn more about this issue.

Understanding Actual Versus Perceived Race Discrimination

Actual race discrimination occurs if the terms and conditions of employment are different because of your race. For example, if your supervisor knows that you are Asian and as a result does not promote you, believing that Asians do not have the skills to be in leadership positions, this is actual race discrimination prohibited by both federal and state laws. Similarly, if you are black, and a company does not hire you to a customer service position because it wants to hew to a particular image, and instead it hires a white person who is less qualified, this is also actual race discrimination.

However, many people are surprised to realize that there is also perceived race discrimination. For example, you might not be Middle Eastern, but due to their own biases, supervisors and coworkers may make unpleasant comments that you are a terrorist or treat you like you are from the Middle East because you have a beard and darker skin tone. This is perceived race discrimination, which is also prohibited under federal and state laws.

Racial jokes or slurs may be considered a form of harassment, which is a type of discrimination. Since both actual and perceived race discrimination are unlawful, you may have a claim of race harassment, even if your supervisor and coworker have your race wrong. However, the teasing or offhand remarks must be serious to rise to the level of harassment. A single offhand remark is unlikely to rise to the level of harassment unless it results in an adverse employment action. The test is whether the actions are sufficiently severe or happen often enough to generate an intimidating work environment or result in a concrete employment action, such as firing or demotion.

Actual or perceived race discrimination is unlawful even if the perpetrator and the victim are of the same race, or the perpetrator believes that they are of the same race. There is not a requirement that they are of different races or that people of the same race cannot discriminate against each other. For example, if a hiring partner is black and believes you to be black, but during the interview, he states that the job is going to be harder for you because you are black, and therefore he does not think that you will be a fit with the company culture, this is likely race discrimination.

Seek Guidance from a New York City Lawyer for a Race Discrimination Claim

Some employees are uncertain whether they have a basis to bring a claim because their coworkers and supervisors seem to misapprehend their racial identities. You may be wondering whether what happened to you is race discrimination, and you should know that actual and perceived race discrimination are treated the same way under the law. At Phillips & Associates, our experienced New York City attorneys can evaluate what happened to you and represent you if appropriate. Contact us online or call us at (212) 248-7431 to set up an appointment with a discrimination or harassment lawyer. We fight workplace misconduct in the Bronx, Queens, Staten Island, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, as well as Suffolk, Nassau, and Westchester Counties.

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