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“Covert” Forms Of Racial Discrimination

In the United States, too many people define racism or racial discrimination only in the context of someone doing something outrageous. However, people of color are discriminated against more often by people in positions of power who practice what are called “covert” forms of racism. Just because a racist act is not visible and splashy does not make it less racist. In the context of employment law, it can open an employer up to just as much liability as would a slur or a physical threat.

Covert vs. Overt

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects against discrimination in employment from the interview and hiring stage to the termination or parting of ways. It does so on several different grounds: race, color, religion, national origin, and gender. The law prohibits any kind of unfair treatment in either benefits (for example, in granting raises) or in punishments.

Despite these prohibitions, people often labor under the misapprehension that they can obey the ‘letter’ of the law and get away with discrimination in spirit. This most often occurs through the enactment of policies that are not outwardly discriminatory, instead targeting characteristics that have been historically associated with race (or whichever characteristic they choose to discriminate against). This is called covert discrimination. While it can be difficult to notice or identify, it is still discrimination and should be called out.

Have I Been Discriminated Against?

Sometimes, it can be hard to tell whether an employer has discriminated against you. This may be because it seems out of character or because the policy itself feels like its effect on a specific group is unintentional. Either way, you have the right to seek corrective action. If someone has acted in a discriminatory way, you may be entitled to compensation for the harm you have suffered because of it. Besides, the law is often explicitly in your favor, depending on your specific situation. Title VII was amended in 1991 to codify protections against this “disparate impact,” arguing that just because a law was not intended to be racially discriminatory does not reduce the harm it may still cause to minorities.

In order to seek redress if you have been discriminated against, you can file a claim either with the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission (SCHAC) or with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), who will then investigate the facts of your claim and determine whether the agency will assist in reaching a resolution. Often, the agency will attempt to facilitate mediation between the employer and the employee or try other methods of alternative dispute resolution to help the parties reach an understanding. Only after all other avenues have been exhausted will the agency either take up your case or grant you the power to sue on your own behalf.

Call An Employment Discrimination Attorney Today

If you have been discriminated against, it is generally a good idea to contact an experienced employment discrimination attorney. A knowledgeable attorney can help you determine how best to handle the issue. Attorney A. Christopher Potts has been handling these types of cases for many years and will work hard to get you the appropriate result in your case. Contact Hitchcock & Potts today to schedule an appointment.

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