According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, racial discrimination in the workplace occurs when an applicant or employee is treated unfavorably because of their race or characteristics associated with that race and can occur even if the victim and the inflictor are of the same race. This discrimination can come in many forms and can be as subtle as a lack of deserved movement within the company or being given undesirable jobs, or as overt as racial epithets and harassment. If you’ve been a victim of racial discrimination, you deserve justice. Still, it can be intimidating even to consider filing a complaint if you’ve experienced discrimination from someone of a higher authority. This article will review how to prove racial discrimination against your boss or other higher-up members of the company you work for.
Knowledge is power, and the first step to winning a case is knowing in explicit detail your end goal and how to get there. If you’re trying to prove that your employer, supervisor, or any higher-up has discriminated against you, your best ally is knowing what the EEOC will be looking for. For the EEOC to conclude that you were discriminated against, you need proof of a few things.
First, the EEOC may inquire as to who you feel was treated more favorably than you, which means you need to prove that you were treated differently than someone else. You should know their name, race, company position, and other relevant information. Ideally, you’ll be able to tell the EEOC interviewer exactly how you were treated. While this may feel like a betrayal or “tattling,” this is a critical portion of building your case. Remember that the person you reference isn’t the person you’re pursuing litigation against.
Secondly, it would help you tremendously if there was someone in a similar position as you who was treated favorably and who is of a different race. Likely, the interviewer will inquire as to whether they worked for the same supervisor, did a similar job, as well as the amount of experience they’ve had.
Lastly, for the EEOC to prove that you were racially discriminated against, they need proof that there was no other legitimate and nondiscriminatory reason for the employer to treat you differently.
Knowing what EEOC investigators are looking for will help you pinpoint what evidence you need to garner to present to have the best chances at success. It is also critically important to note that people do the recording and filing of your case. This means that you need to be explicitly clear in your communication as a person can easily mis-record or misinterpret critical details of your case. It is best to write down the facts and have a compilation of evidence with you when you arrive for your interview so you can be completely clear and ensure there is no miscommunication.
Now that you have a better idea of what to look for, you need to gather evidence. Ideally, you’ll do so before your employer knows you are looking into filing a complaint with the EEOC. This is because you want to mitigate any chance of someone deleting or tampering with evidence before you collect it. In addition, whatever you collect should be kept in physical copies and digital files away from your place of work. It is also important for you to know what evidence the EEOC will look for in their investigation. This evidence includes testimony, documents, and statistical evidence.
Testimony will be the first form of evidence that the investigators collect, meaning it will be recorded and looked upon at a later date. Because of this, it is in your best interest not to lie or exaggerate in any way, shape, or form. Any information considered hearsay or second-hand is not as good as first-hand information. Still, it can help corroborate a story and build a bigger picture of the incident. If there is someone who you believe is willing to be interviewed, knows of, or saw what happened, then you should provide their name and position as well as their contact information.
The investigators will also be looking for documentation. Documentation can fall under many categories, such as physical or digital correspondence, memos, notes, files, workplace reviews, and even recordings. This is where it becomes critical for you to have physical and digital copies that are stored securely. In some special cases, the EEOC will investigate statistical evidence, such as how specific policies affect certain groups. However, this is not evidence you can gather and is usually carried out by investigators.
At this point, you should be aware of your overall goal in pursuing litigation and have had a chance to gather as much evidence as possible and draft a written testimony so you can be fully prepared to consult with a racial injustice lawyer. While it is not required for you to have a lawyer, it is highly advised that you hire one as the EEOC will not give you legal advice, and they do not represent you. It is in your best interest to have a professional on your side as workplace law is highly complex. If you get to the lawsuit stage without a lawyer, it will be extremely difficult to find representation later.
Your lawyer can tell you how much water your case holds and if spending all that time and money will be fruitful. Too many employees who file a complaint without a lawyer end up receiving a “no reasonable cause letter,” which means that the EEOC found no proof of your claim and is no longer continuing with the investigation. While you can continue to take your case to court, a lawyer will likely be able to tell you long beforehand if there isn’t enough hard evidence.
Additionally, a lawyer will know how much your case is worth and how much compensation you can receive in concordance with the amount of effort going into the case. This is typically referred to as a cost-benefit analysis and can save you a lot of wasted time and money. Many employers, supervisors, and higher-ups don’t want to deal with a court case and will try to settle out of court. Do not do this without a lawyer advising you, as you may get very little compared to what you could get if you went through with the court case.
Remember that you must file a complaint within 180 days of the incident if you are not a federal employee and 45 days if you are a federal employee. In addition, an EEOC investigation may take up to 10 months. Employers know this and will use it to pressure you into settling or not pursuing litigation. However, now that you know how to prove that your boss or supervisor racially discriminated against you, you’re much less likely to be taken advantage of and better prepared to build a winning case.