Racial discrimination is a persistent problem in companies across New Jersey despite federal and state anti-discrimination laws. No one should ever face discrimination based on their race or skin color, and, unfortunately, some employers continue to engage in this illegal conduct or allow it to flourish within their workplaces. Under both the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees and applicants based on race and other protected characteristics.
These laws provide employees and applicants with the right to pursue legal remedies through an administrative process and/or through the court when an employer violates the law and engages in illegal racial discrimination. With the help of the employment lawyers at Swartz Swidler, you might be able to hold your employer accountable for its illegal actions and recover damages to make you whole. A discrimination lawsuit might help to deter your employer and other companies from engaging in this type of unlawful conduct in the future.
Understanding Race Discrimination
Illegal race discrimination occurs in the workplace when employers treat individuals differently than others based on their actual or perceived race. It is unlawful during any part of the employment relationship, including in recruiting, hiring, interviewing, salary determinations, promotions, training opportunities, bonuses, benefits, layoffs, and firing. Companies can’t engage in unlawful race discrimination or allow other employees to discriminate based on race.
Applicants and employees are protected against racial discrimination in the workplace under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Civil Rights Act of 1866. Employers are forbidden from engaging in overt acts of discrimination as well as implementing policies and procedures that have a disparate impact on members of racial minority groups.
New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and Race Discrimination
The NJLAD applies to employers of any size in New Jersey and protects workers against race-based discrimination in the workplace. Employers may not discriminate against applicants or employees in any term or condition of employment based on their race. This also includes discrimination against employees based on their association or relationship with members of a specific racial minority group.
The NJLAD also prohibits retaliation by employers against employees for filing complaints about workplace race discrimination. Retaliation includes any adverse employment action taken because of an employee’s complaint or participation in an investigation of another employee’s discrimination complaint. The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights enforces the NJLAD. Once a discrimination charge is filed with the NJDCR, the agency will investigate to determine whether the complaint is merited. It might decide to prosecute the complaint on behalf of the worker or provide the wronged employee or applicant a notice of the right to sue.
When an individual is successful with a racial discrimination claim under the NJLAD, the following remedies might be recoverable:
- Back pay
- Front pay
- Job reinstatement
- Emotional distress
- Punitive damages
- Attorney’s fees
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Unlike the NJLAD, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) applies to employers with 15 or more employees, so it might not be available when an employee or applicant is discriminated against by a smaller employer. However, this law also prohibits workplace discrimination based on the race or color of applicants and employees and covers all aspects of the employment relationship. Title VII also prohibits disparate impact discrimination, which occurs when a facially neutral policy adversely impacts members of a certain racial group but not others. For example, if a company has a policy that they only recruit in certain areas in which few members of a specific group might be found, the policy could be found to be unlawfully discriminatory.
Like the NJLAD, Title VII prohibits retaliation against employees for complaining about racial discrimination in the workplace. Successful claimants might recover lost wages (front pay and back pay), job reinstatement, emotional distress damages, injunctive relief, and attorney’s fees.
Civil Rights Act of 1866
The Civil Rights Act of 1866 prohibits race-based discrimination regardless of a company’s size. This law forbids overt and indirect racial discrimination and provides that all citizens have an equal right to engage in contracts under 42 U.S.C. § 1981. This law applies to employment since the employment relationship is contractual.
Like Title VII, Section 1981 prohibits hostile workplace discrimination. However, section 1981 requires intentional discrimination while Title VII also addresses indirect or disparate impact discrimination. Unlike discrimination charges filed under Title VII, people do not have to file a discrimination charge with the EEOC to file a discrimination claim under Section 1981 and can instead file a lawsuit directly in court without going through the administrative process. Section 1981 racial discrimination claims also have a longer statute of limitations, and people can file lawsuits within four years of the discriminatory act.
Filing a Race Discrimination Complaint
If you believe you have been the victim of illegal race discrimination in the workplace, the first step is to file an internal complaint within your company. Review your employee manual to determine how to file a complaint, and follow the proper procedure. Submit your complaint in writing to the appropriate party, and keep a copy for your records. Your employer should investigate your complaint and take appropriate action to end the discriminatory conduct. If your employer fails to address the problem or retaliates against you for complaining, you should speak to an NJ discrimination lawyer at Swartz Swidler.
For claims under Title VII or the NJLAD, you must act quickly. There is a 180-day deadline from the date of the last discriminatory act for claims filed under Title VII with the EEOC. This statutory period is extended to 300 days because of the longer deadline allowed under state law. If you don’t file your discrimination charge within the relevant period, you won’t be able to pursue legal remedies. A workplace bullying attorney in New Jersey at Swartz Swidler can review your claim and help you understand which laws might apply and the next steps. To learn more about your rights against illegal discrimination, contact us for a free consultation by calling (856) 685-7420.