What scenarios classify as race harassment in the workplace?

The California FEHA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibit harassment in the workplace on the basis of race. But what exactly does this mean? The EEOC offers specific examples.

Along with California's Fair Employment and Housing Act, or FEHA, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from harassing, or treating employees or job applicants unfairly, on the basis of factors such as age, sex, and religion. It also prohibits such harassment on the basis of race.

But what exactly does this mean? What are the types of scenarios that would classify as harassing behavior in the workplace?

EEOC examples of workplace harassment on the basis of race

Many people would conclude that workplace harassment on the basis of race likely pertains to a type of negative or offensive conduct toward an employee because of his or her race or ethnic origin.

But, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission-the federal agency tasked with regulating workplace discrimination known as the EEOC-such conduct is wide-ranging.

The EEOC has provided specific instances that classify as workplace harassment on the basis of race. They include but are not limited to:

  • Racial jokes
  • Derogatory remarks
  • Intimidation
  • Name-calling
  • Mockery
  • Insults

Racial harassment can also come in the form of offensive objects or images.

An employer's duty

Such behavior, no matter how nominal, is prohibited. However, a cause of action typically manifests if the harassment is so frequent and severe that it creates a hostile work environment or results in "adverse employment activity."

Employers found committing or authorizing such egregious conduct in the workplace may face strict repercussions under the law such as steep fines and civil action.

In the state of California, employers violating the law may also face punitive damages. Such damages are authorized under California's FEHA if a corporation's officers, directors, or managing agents engage in workplace harassment, discrimination, or retaliation, or when any approve of or ignore such behavior by subordinate employees.

Guidance from a knowledgeable attorney

Employees who have experienced harassment in the workplace and believe such conduct is in violation of laws such as of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act or FEHA are encouraged to speak with an experienced employment law attorney.

A lawyer knowledgeable in this area of law can offer advice as it pertains to individual circumstances and provide greater insight regarding the types of instances classified as prohibited behavior. A lawyer can also explain the process of filing a claim with the California Department of Fair Employment and other legal options available.

Keywords: workplace harassment, race harassment