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Recognizing Racial Discrimination Based on Work Terms or Duties

 Posted on January 22, 2019 in Workplace Discrimination

Allegheny County workplace race discrimination lawyerYou may feel that you have been treated in a negative or unfair manner at work because of your race, yet be unsure whether it rises to the level of illegal racial discrimination. It can be difficult to determine whether a single employer decision that appears to be racially biased is actually a violation of your rights under the federal and/or Pennsylvania state civil rights laws. 

Some employer decisions about your work terms or duties may not appear to be discriminatory on their face, but can be proven to be discriminatory when all employee records are reviewed. Some examples include:

  • Offering different work terms or conditions to one race than to others
  • Assigning duties or responsibilities based on an employee's race
  • Limiting promotion opportunities to those of a particular race

If you are unsure whether you have been discriminated against with regard to work terms, conditions, or duties, two helpful resources are guidelines published by the federal Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) and EEOC press releases about recently settled cases.

EEOC Website Provides Examples of Racial Discrimination

The EEOC’s enforcement guidelines, which can be found on its website, offer many specific examples of discriminatory acts. Under the category of “work terms or conditions,” the EEOC gives an example involving compensatory time--that is, hours that an employee is allowed to take off on one occasion because they worked extra hours on another occasion.

Suppose that a female African-American employee has regular working hours of 9 am to 5 pm. She asks her supervisor for permission to work late on some days and occasionally leave early on other days in order to provide after-school care for her children when her usual sitter is sick. Her supervisor says no, that the job hours are fixed, and employees must use their vacation time for such absences.

The company does not have a written policy regarding compensatory time. However, the employee is aware that white employees in similar positions have been allowed to use compensatory time for childcare purposes. The supervisor simply says that those situations were “different.” Under these circumstances, the employee has a valid EEOC claim, because she was denied the opportunity to use compensatory time based on her race.

EEOC Press Releases Describe Recent Case Settlements

EEOC press releases are another good way to learn about the types of employer actions that have resulted in enforcement actions and compensation to employees. For example, in a December 2018 press release, the EEOC announced that Maritime Autowash would pay $300,000 in compensatory damages to employees who had been subjected to race and national origin discrimination. In this case, the discrimination was related to wages, promotions, and terms of employment. 

Despite years of excellent job performance, Hispanic workers remained relegated to lower-paying jobs as laborers and detailers, were paid only the minimum wage, and were not offered the opportunity to advance to higher-paying positions such as cashier. In contrast, Maritime paid non-Hispanic workers higher wages and promoted them to higher-paying positions. Hispanic workers were also required to perform extra duties without additional compensation, such as cleaning or landscaping at the owner’s house. 

Consult a Pittsburgh Race Discrimination Lawyer

If you are unsure whether you have a valid EEOC claim, consult an experienced Allegheny County employment discrimination attorney. Call our Wexford office at 412-680-7877 for a free review of your case. We serve clients throughout the Pittsburgh metropolitan area.


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