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When Can I Sue My Employer for Racial Discrimination in Pennsylvania?

 Posted on December 06, 2018 in Workplace Discrimination

Wexford, PA racial discrimination lawyerVirtually all U.S. employers, regardless of size, have an employee handbook that clearly states a company policy against racial discrimination and harassment. Employees are typically required to sign a form stating that they have read and agree to these policies. Companies hold harassment awareness training sessions. Job postings state that the company is an Equal Opportunity Employer whose employment decisions “shall be made without regard to race, creed, color, or any other basis protected by federal, state, or local law.” All of these measures are meant to ensure that the employer complies with Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which specifically prohibits racial discrimination and applies to all employers with 15 or more employees.  

However, racial discrimination and harassment persist in some companies and some geographic areas. Sometimes it is subtle or hidden, making you unsure whether you are justified in filing a complaint against your employer.

How Do I Know If I Have a Valid Discrimination Complaint?

Racial discrimination in the workplace occurs when an employer treats workers of one race worse than those of another race. Some of the most common examples involve hiring, retention, or promotion actions that favor one race over another. Other examples include assigning certain job tasks disproportionately to people of one race or paying employees of one race less than other employees who do the same job.

Racial harassment is another form of racial discrimination. It includes actions such as telling derogatory race-based jokes, using racial slurs in workplace conversations, or posting offensive cartoons or signs. More serious acts of harassment include unwanted sexual advances, physical contact, or threats of physical violence that are race-based. If such conduct is deemed “severe and pervasive,” and the employer does not take action to stop such conduct, the employer can be held responsible for creating a hostile work environment. 

If you have experienced any of the above at your job, you may have grounds for a racial discrimination claim. 

What Is the Process for Filing a Racial Discrimination Lawsuit in Allegheny County?

Before you can file a lawsuit for workplace discrimination or harassment, you must first file a claim with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commision (PHRC). The commission will investigate your claim on behalf of both the state and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This is known as the administrative complaint process.

If your employer has, in fact, violated your civil rights through racial discrimination, the investigator will document that. The Commission will then take action to remedy the situation. The remedy should “make you whole,” as if the discriminatory action had not happened. For example, if you were paid less due to your race, the remedy might be to raise your pay to the proper level immediately and compensate you for back pay as well. In some cases, you may also be awarded compensation for emotional distress or punitive damages to punish your employer for particularly bad acts of discrimination.

The investigator may be able to negotiate a settlement for you directly with your employer, or your complaint may have to be resolved through mediation with your employer. If your employer is unwilling to reach a settlement, a lawsuit may have to be filed and the matter settled through litigation.

Contact an Allegheny County Race Discrimination Attorney

Racial discrimination has no place in America. Contact a Pittsburgh racial discrimination lawyer to review your case. The attorneys at Colianni & Leonard LLC focus on protecting the rights of clients who have suffered personal injury as a result of racial discrimination, sexual harassment, and other types of civil rights violations. Call our Wexford office at 412-680-7877 to schedule a free consultation.


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