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Race or Ethnicity

America is more racially diverse than ever. Under the law, all workers look alike, regardless of skin color or ethnicity. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color or national origin by a private employer, state or local government or educational institution with 15 or more employees for 20 or more weeks a year. Discrimination can occur even where the victim and the person discriminating are the same race or color.

Race/Color Discrimination

Racial Discrimination involves treating someone unfavorably because of the person’s race or personal characteristics associated with race. The law forbids discrimination in any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay and benefits. It is also unlawful to harass a person because of that person’s race.  Although an employer may implement a policy that applies to everyone regardless of race or color, the policy can still be unlawful if it has a negative impact on the employment of people of a particular race or color, is not related to the job and necessary to the operation of the business.

National Origin Discrimination

The law prohibits discrimination against an employee or applicant because of that individual’s national origin. Whether an employee is Filipino, Turkish, American Indian, Colombian or Ukrainian or any other nationality, he or she is entitled to the same employment opportunities as anyone else. No individuals can be denied equal employment opportunity because of birthplace, ancestry, culture, linguistic characteristics common to a specific ethnic group, or accent.  The EEOC enforces the prohibition against national origin discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which covers employers with 15 or more employees.

If you think you have been discriminated against because of your race, ethnicity or national origin, you may file employment discrimination charges as an individual or as part of a group (known as "class action") with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The charges must be filed on an EEOC form within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory act. If you are represented by a union, contact your union steward, who can help you file charges. Federal employees have 45 days to contact an EEO counselor and must file discrimination charges within their own agency.

You can file a charge by calling the EEOC at 800-669-4000 for more information (800-669-6820 for the hearing impaired). All charges must include:

  • Your name, address and telephone number.
  • Your job title.
  • A brief description of the problem.
  • When the incident(s) occurred.
  • The type of discrimination you encountered.

For more information, visit the EEOC question-and-answer page about discrimination.

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