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Myths About Racial Discrimination in Employment

In this day and age, the issue of racial discrimination is front and center in many discussions for people across the political spectrum. However, there are many different misconceptions that still circulate about the issue of race discrimination specifically in the context of employment. If you believe that you have been discriminated against due to your race or color, it is important that you have your facts right before proceeding with any kind of lawsuit or complaint process.

Myth: Antidiscrimination laws about race only apply once you have been hired.

Fact: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 holds that it is an “unlawful employment practice” to discriminate against someone based on their race or color (among other characteristics) from interview to hiring to discharge. If an employer is found, for example, to go out of their way not to hire people of color, any of those people might have a case for discrimination under federal law—even though they were never employees.

Myth: An employer can claim that whiteness is a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ).

Fact: A bona fide occupational qualification is a characteristic that an employer is allowed to consider in making hiring and firing decisions, because to fail to do so would harm the business. For example, an airline may cite age as a bona fide occupational qualification when hiring pilots, because pilots need to have quick reflexes and many older people do not. Race or color, however, may not be considered a BFOQ under any circumstances under Title VII.

Myth: An employer’s conduct has to be openly discriminatory before it can be actionable.

Fact: Like with any other protected characteristic, a policy that is facially neutral but winds up targeting minorities is still discriminatory. It is discriminatory in practice, rather than on its face. Unless the policy can be shown to have a compelling business reason, such practices can be the basis for a lawsuit. For example, many companies require women to wear their hair in ways that appear “professional,” which has historically excluded many common black hairstyles, and indeed, Chastity Jones filed suit against a company that interviewed her and dismissed her on that basis.

Myth: I am more likely to get a job because of antidiscrimination laws, so if I am not hired, it must be discriminatory.

Fact: Nothing in either the South Carolina Human Affairs Law (SCHAL) or Title VII requires that minority groups be given preferential treatment in terms of hiring, firing, or any other employment action. The law merely requires that they not be unfairly disadvantaged in that arena, which is simply not the same. If you are not hired by an employer, it is infinitely more likely that you did not meet the position’s requirements. But if you suspect discrimination on a more concrete basis, you do have options for how to proceed.

Get Legal Help Today

On average, claims of racial discrimination make up between 35 and 40 percent of those received by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in any given year. If you believe that you have been discriminated against because of your race or color, it is a good idea to talk to an employment discrimination lawyer before filing a claim, so you can ensure that you are as well prepared as possible. Attorney A. Christopher Potts is experienced with these cases, and is happy to sit down with you to try and figure out a game plan for yours. Contact Hitchcock & Potts today.

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