How Can I Prove Racial Discrimination Against My Employer?


Discrimination in the workplace based on race is illegal. If you believe you have been discriminated against because of your race, you have the right to file a claim against your employer. If you win the claim, the company may be ordered to take action to make things right and/or to pay you for your losses, as well as pay for your costs in bringing the lawsuit, including your attorney’s fees.

For example, if you did not get a promotion because your boss discriminated against you due to your race, your company may be ordered to give you the promotion and to pay you any back pay and benefits you missed out on when you weren’t promoted. You could also receive payment for expenses that arose because of the discrimination, such as medical bills or the costs of looking for a new job. In some cases, you may receive payment for your emotional distress. In addition, the company will be ordered to stop its illegal discrimination and to prevent discrimination from happening again in the company in the future.

There is much to be gained by bringing a lawsuit for racial discrimination. The hard part, though, is proving the discrimination, especially when the people discriminating against you tried to hide what they were doing. An experienced employment discrimination lawyer knows how to find and gather the necessary evidence and use it to make a strong and convincing case.

Evidence of racial discrimination may be direct or indirect.

Direct Evidence of Racial Discrimination in the Workplace

Sometimes, there is direct evidence of discrimination. For example, if an executive in a company sends an email to the company’s recruiters, telling them not to hire people of a certain race for certain positions, that would be clear evidence of the company’s intent to discriminate. If you had this kind of evidence, your case would likely be easy to prove.

Direct evidence, though, is rare. Companies usually go to great lengths to avoid being sued for discrimination. Executives and managers generally know that they shouldn’t discriminate against workers in an obvious way. But racial discrimination at work still exists, unfortunately. It’s just that when it happens, it’s done in more subtle ways.

Indirect Evidence of Racial Discrimination in the Workplace

Even when you don’t have a “smoking gun” document showing your employer’s intent to discriminate, you can still prove discrimination using indirect evidence. Generally, you will want to show that your employer treats workers differently because of their race, with some workers being treated more favorably than others.

When you use indirect evidence in a racial-discrimination lawsuit, you and your employer will go through a three-step process:

  1. You present a prima facie case of discrimination.

“Prima facie” means “on its face.” You need to present indirect evidence to show that it appears the company discriminated against you because of your race. For example, if you were qualified for a promotion and you applied for the job, but you didn’t get it, and someone from a different race got the promotion instead, that could be prima facie evidence that the company discriminated against you on the basis of race.

  1. The employer presents evidence of nondiscriminatory reasons for its actions.

After you present your prima facie evidence, the employer can respond by showing evidence that it had legitimate and nondiscriminatory reasons for its actions. For example, the employer might claim that the reason you didn’t get the promotion was that you didn’t have the necessary experience.

If the employer can convince the court that this was the real reason why you didn’t get promoted, then the employer will win the case. But what if this wasn’t the real reason? What if the employer really did discriminate against you, and the reason it gave was just an excuse? In the next step, you get a chance to show that the employer is trying to cover up the truth.

  1. You present evidence showing that discrimination was a real reason for your employer’s actions.

To win your case, you will need to show that racial discrimination played a part in your employer’s actions, despite what the employer said. Usually, you will do that by showing that the reasons claimed by the employer were false and mere pretexts to hide the truth. For example, if the employer claimed you didn’t have the right kind of experience to get the promotion you wanted, you could present evidence showing you actually had more relevant experience than the person the employer ended up hiring for that job.

You can also point to patterns of discrimination in your company that go beyond your own situation. Such evidence could include statistics showing racial bias throughout the company, evidence that no one of your race had ever been hired for the position you wanted, or evidence showing managers made derogatory comments about the abilities of people of your race.

Proving a racial-discrimination case using indirect evidence takes a lot of skill and experience. It’s important to hire a lawyer who has a good track record with these kinds of situations.

We Can Help

The employment law team at the law firm of Raynes & Lawn has been honored for its precedent-setting work fighting for the rights of workers who have been discriminated against. Our lead employment attorney won all four of his cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, and our team has a long record of success in securing justice for our those we represent.

We invite you to contact us if you believe your race was a factor in any of these situations — being fired, paid less, receiving fewer benefits, being disciplined, being denied a raise, getting passed over for a promotion or other opportunity, not getting hired in the first place, or being harassed at work. Fill out our contact form, or call us at (800) 535-1797, and we will be glad to set up a free and confidential consultation to learn more about what happened and to discuss your options.

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