Job Discrimination Against Black Women: Racial Discrimination, Sex Discrimination, or Both?

African American Woman Who Faced Discrimination at Work

Black women sometimes face serious discrimination at work. But it can be hard to tell whether job discrimination against black women is based on their sex, their race, or both. Find out what protections are available and what the differences are between racial discrimination and sex discrimination claims.

In this blog post I will review potential job discrimination claims by African American women against their employers. I will discuss the similarities and differences between racial discrimination and sex discrimination, and explain how an employment discrimination attorney can help make the most of the claims.

Racial Discrimination and Sex Discrimination Options

Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act protects against job discrimination based on race, sex or gender, and other inherent traits. The law makes it illegal for employers to make hiring decisions based on these traits, treat their employees differently because of them, or allow a hostile work environment to exist.

Racial discrimination claims can be based on a person’s actual or perceived race, national origin or color. It can include racial slurs, offensive or derogatory remarks, or the use of racially-offensive symbols.

Sexual discrimination claims are similar, but the behavior must be based on a person’s sex or gender identity (including transgender status). Many sex discrimination claims are based on sexual harassment . This includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other unwanted comments or physical contact that is sexual in nature. A sexually hostile work environment can also exist when comments are made about a person’s gender, even when not specifically targeting the employee who files the claim.

Women who face wage discrimination also have the ability to file a separate claim under the Equal Pay Act. This law prohibits employers from paying men and women differently for substantially equal work. When a woman faces sex discrimination, she often has claims under both Title VII and the EPA.

Black Women Face Complicated Job Discrimination Claims

Unfortunately, black women face substantial discrimination at work and when they are looking for jobs. Research suggests that black women continue to be paid significantly less, and receive fewer employment opportunities than their white or male counterparts. But when African American women face discrimination at work, it can sometimes be hard to tell whether the bias is against their race, or their sex.

Sometimes, racial or sexual bias is obvious. When a person is forced to endure racial slurs or sexual advances, it can be clear which claims apply. But in other cases, particularly where an employer uses illegal biases to make hiring, firing, promotion, or pay decisions, it can be harder to tease apart what caused the decision.

In these cases, your employment discrimination attorney may need to gather a lot of information about your workplace to build a case against your employer for racial discrimination, sexual discrimination, or both. When direct evidence or statements aren’t available, you may need to establish your claim by demonstrating:

  • Racial or sexual trends in hiring, firing, or promotion
  • Aggregate data regarding pay and compensation by your employer
  • How your employer reacted to your internal complaints
  • Who was given the job, raise, or duties you were denied.

Raising Alternative Discrimination Claims

Sometimes all that information isn’t available right away. It may only become obvious whether discrimination was based on race or sex as the case is developed. Because of this, when an employment discrimination attorney helps a black woman file a claim for job discrimination, the complaint will often raise “alternative” discrimination claims. By listing both race and sex as a basis for illegal discrimination in her initial complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or in federal court, a black woman can protect her right to sue, even if it isn’t yet clear which type of discrimination applies. As the case develops and an employer’s motives become clear, one or the other claim may sometimes be dropped. But in other cases, both race and sex contributed to the hostile workplace environment on the job.

Black women face complicated job discrimination issues every day. If you believe you have been singled out at work, because of either your race or your gender, the employment discrimination attorneys at Eisenberg & Baum, LLP, can help. We will review your situation and help you plan a strategy that preserves all of your claims and protects your rights. Contact Eisenberg & Baum, LLP, today to talk to an employment discrimination attorney.

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