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Allegheny County work discrimination attorneyRacial discrimination in the workplace does not have to involve open hostility, derogatory remarks, and intentional acts in order to support a claim for damages. In fact, many cases have been won where an employer’s race-based discrimination was subtle and even unintentional. 

When racial discrimination occurs in a more subtle fashion, you may not even be sure whether you have a valid claim. Even after you file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and their investigation reveals some evidence of discriminatory practices, there is no guarantee that the EEOC will decide to prosecute your case. In such cases, you may need to engage a private attorney to help you collect damages.

What Are Some Signs of Subtle Racial Discrimination?

A supervisor or hiring manager may never utter a word against people of another race or intentionally make discriminatory decisions about hiring, promotion, or termination. However, they may still be perpetuating discriminatory practices.

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Allegheny County EEOC claim lawyer discrimination compensationIf you have experienced employment discrimination because of your age, race, sex, or another attribute protected under the U.S. Civil Rights Act, you have the right to file a claim with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If the EEOC determines that your claim of discrimination is valid, you may be eligible to receive substantial compensation for the harm that was done to you. The amount of compensation that you can receive depends on the nature of your case.

Intentional Sex-Based Wage Discrimination

If your claim is that your employer paid you less than other people in comparable positions due to your gender, your compensation will be in the form of back pay. If you were paid $10/hour, and workers of the other gender were paid $11/hour, and you worked at that job for 1,000 hours, you would be eligible for compensation in the amount of $1,000 ($1 per hour wage difference times the number of hours that you were underpaid).

When an employer’s sex-based discrimination is not just intentional but especially malicious, your compensation as described above could be doubled. This type of incremental compensation is termed “liquidated damages.”

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Allegheny County workplace race discrimination lawyerYou may feel that you have been treated in a negative or unfair manner at work because of your race, yet be unsure whether it rises to the level of illegal racial discrimination. It can be difficult to determine whether a single employer decision that appears to be racially biased is actually a violation of your rights under the federal and/or Pennsylvania state civil rights laws. 

Some employer decisions about your work terms or duties may not appear to be discriminatory on their face, but can be proven to be discriminatory when all employee records are reviewed. Some examples include:

  • Offering different work terms or conditions to one race than to others
  • Assigning duties or responsibilities based on an employee's race
  • Limiting promotion opportunities to those of a particular race

If you are unsure whether you have been discriminated against with regard to work terms, conditions, or duties, two helpful resources are guidelines published by the federal Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) and EEOC press releases about recently settled cases.

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Pittsburgh EEOC race discrimination claim attorneyGiven that racial discrimination by employers is prohibited nationwide by the U.S. Civil Rights Act, you may wonder why Pennsylvania has passed a virtually identical law at the state level. You may also wonder how the federal and state agencies work together to investigate race discrimination complaints without duplicating each other’s efforts. 

Federal vs. Pennsylvania State Laws on Race Discrimination

Federal law. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race (and several other factors) by employers with 15 or more employees. This law established the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commision (EEOC), which is tasked with publishing regulations and guidelines to help employers understand and comply with the law, investigating and resolving discrimination complaints, and generally enforcing the law. 

Pennsylvania state law. The Pennsylvania Fair Employment Practice Act—since retitled to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA)—was originally enacted in 1955, nearly a decade before the federal Civil Rights Act. Like Title VII, the Pennsylvania law prohibits discrimination against employees on the basis of race (and several other factors). 

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Pittsburgh employer racial discrimination attorneyIf you take a careful look around your workplace, you may honestly be able to say that you see no evidence of racial discrimination. However, not everyone in Pennsylvania can say that. Employer race discrimination continues to be surprisingly common in the state. 

In fact, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received 1,195 race-based employment discrimination charges from Pennsylvania in 2017, and it has received a roughly similar number each year since 2011. Pennsylvania ranked seventh among the 50 states in race-based complaints in 2017. Texas had the largest number of charges (2,999), followed by Florida, Georgia, California, Illinois, and North Carolina. It should also be noted, however, that the EEOC found that 75% of all U.S. race-based charges were unsupported by the evidence. 

To provide an idea of what types of racial discrimination charges are still being filed against employers in Pennsylvania, here are two recent cases that appeared in the news in 2018:

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Wexford, PA racial discrimination lawyerVirtually all U.S. employers, regardless of size, have an employee handbook that clearly states a company policy against racial discrimination and harassment. Employees are typically required to sign a form stating that they have read and agree to these policies. Companies hold harassment awareness training sessions. Job postings state that the company is an Equal Opportunity Employer whose employment decisions “shall be made without regard to race, creed, color, or any other basis protected by federal, state, or local law.” All of these measures are meant to ensure that the employer complies with Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which specifically prohibits racial discrimination and applies to all employers with 15 or more employees.  

However, racial discrimination and harassment persist in some companies and some geographic areas. Sometimes it is subtle or hidden, making you unsure whether you are justified in filing a complaint against your employer.

How Do I Know If I Have a Valid Discrimination Complaint?

Racial discrimination in the workplace occurs when an employer treats workers of one race worse than those of another race. Some of the most common examples involve hiring, retention, or promotion actions that favor one race over another. Other examples include assigning certain job tasks disproportionately to people of one race or paying employees of one race less than other employees who do the same job.

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Pittsburgh workplace discrimination lawyersEvery citizen of the United States has the right to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of age, skin color, ancestry, sexual orientation, or any other characteristics they may have. While no rule could possibly prevent every insult or instance of exclusion, there are laws in place to prevent discrimination in the workplace on the basis of certain personal characteristics. Sexual harassment—a form of sex-based employment discrimination—has been at the forefront of public consciousness for the last year or so, but other types of discrimination also occur every day throughout the country.

One of New York City’s best-known department stores is currently facing a lawsuit filed by eight former employees—all of whom are men and most of whom are older and black. The men say that Saks Fifth Avenue discriminated against them on the basis of age and race. They also claim that they were treated much differently than workers who were younger and white were treated.

A “Glass Ceiling”

The plaintiffs include four black men, two white men, and two Hispanic men. More than half of the men are over the age of 54. In their lawsuit, the men allege that black and Hispanic employees of Saks are restricted by a “glass ceiling” in place for people of color. They say that this was made evident in a variety of ways during the course of their employment. In general, the claimants allege that they were assigned to departments with low customer traffic so as to keep them “far removed from the department’s front entrance.” When the employees’ sales numbers lagged as a result, they were evaluated poorly. When they made sales goals anyway, the men said that managers found other ways to criticize their performance.

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