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Know Your Rights
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces employment law, notes that racial harassment occurs when unwelcome conduct creates an offensive, intimidating, or hostile workplace and unreasonably interferes with your work performance. Racial discrimination occurs when you are discriminated against based on your ancestry or the cultural or physical characteristics of your race. Companies that have 15 or more employees who have worked at least 20 calendar weeks must abide by U.S. employment laws. If your company isn’t large enough to fall under EEOC law, you might still have some protection under your state’s anti-discrimination laws.
For the Record
Document every comment or incident. Although you might think you’ll never forget the incident, small details might become fuzzy after a few days or weeks. Documentation will help support your complaint when you talk to your supervisor or human resources. It’s more difficult for management to ignore a complaint if it contains detailed information regarding the nature of the event and people involved. Keep a log and note the date and time of every instance of racism, a summary that explains what occurred, the people involved, witnesses, and any action you or others took. Save texts, phone messages and emails that contain racist language.
Talk to Your Supervisor
Your first step in handling racism begins with a visit to your supervisor.
Even if you don’t think your supervisor will do anything about your complaint, it’s still important to inform her. Upper management might not take your complaint seriously if you complain directly to them instead of following the chain of command. Although you might feel upset or angry, try to stay calm when presenting your complaint and supporting materials. At the end of the meeting, ask your supervisor what steps will be taken to address the issue and find out when you can expect to hear from her regarding her investigation.
If your supervisor, human resources, or management has done nothing to address your complaints and your company has 15 or more employees, you can file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. You can also file a complaint with the fair employment practice agency in your state, if applicable. When you file a complaint with a fair employment practice agency, the EEOC usually receives a copy, making it unnecessary to file a complaint with both agencies. If your company must abide by the federal employment laws enforced by the EEOC, you must first file a complaint or charge of discrimination before you can initiate a lawsuit. If you aren’t happy with the results of mediation or an investigation by the EEOC or fair employment practice agency, you can bring a lawsuit against your company for racial discrimination or harassment.