Race and Color Discrimination Article

Race and Color Discrimination

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, covered employers of 15 or more employees are prohibited from discriminating against employees or applicants because of race or color with regard to any aspect of employment such as hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.

This discrimination may include unfavorable treatment because of personal traits or characteristics associated with race; skin color or complexion; marriage to or association with an individual of a certain race or color; or beliefs or perceptions about an employee's race. Discrimination may also occur when the victim and the perpetrator are both of the same race or color.

Examples of Discrimination Because of Race or Color

  • Demotion or termination
  • Lower pay than peers
  • Less favorable work assignments or conditions
  • Scrutinizing work more closely than other employees despite good performance
  • Undermining managerial authority or span of control
  • Exclusion from important work activities
  • Disciplinary action or Performance Improvement Plans

Hostile Work Environment (Harassment)

Title VII also prohibits the harassment of an employee due to race or color.  Harassment is the unwelcome treatment of an employee due to race or color that is frequent or severe enough to alter working conditions and create a demeaning or abusive atmosphere (hostile work environment).  It is critical that you notify management of the harassment.  If possible, do so in writing and save a copy for documentation.  Once an employer knows about the harassment, it is obligated to take effective action to stop it.

This unlawful conduct may include the use of slurs or name-calling, workplace graffiti, threats, inappropriate jokes or gestures, isolation, exclusion, work interference, undermining of authority, humiliation, or other mistreatment.  The harasser may be a supervisor, co-worker, contractor, or client.  The harasser may be of the same race or color as well.


It is also unlawful to punish an employee for complaining to the employer about being discriminated against due to race or color or opposing race or color discrimination against another employee.  Title VII further prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for filing an EEOC discrimination charge, testifying or participating in an investigation about discrimination, assisting in an EEOC proceeding or lawsuit, or opposing employment practices that an employee reasonably believes discriminate against another individual in violation of the law.

Retaliation includes adverse actions such as demotions, disciplinary actions, terminations, and other forms of punishment that tend to dissuade employees from complaining about discrimination. For more information about legally protected activities and examples of unlawful retaliation, see Retaliation page.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, private sector employees must file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 calendar days of a discriminatory action. You will forfeit important legal rights available to you if you do not file a timely charge with the EEOC. If you’ve already missed a deadline, call to discuss your options.

The Civil Rights Act of 1866 also prohibits certain forms race and color discrimination and retaliation. This law applies to covered employers with any number of employees.  Although it has a longer statute of limitations than Title VII, there are important differences between these laws that you should discuss with an attorney.  This law is not meant to be a substitute for Title VII and is limited to only race and color discrimination and retaliation.

In addition to federal law, the Wrongful Discharge Against Public Policy (WDPP) law of North Carolina prohibits covered employers from firing employees due to race or color.  Because the deadline for filing a WDPP claim has fluctuated in recent years, it is recommended that claims be filed without delay.  (see Wrongful Termination page)

If you’ve been subjected to race or color discrimination, contact Rich Daugherty.  Whether your employment has been wrongfully terminated, you’re in fear of losing your job unlawfully, or you’re stuck in an untenable situation, contact Rich. He will stand by your side every step of the way to resolve your case fairly.

In addition to litigating cases, Rich negotiates confidential severance agreements and executive exit agreements favorable to his clients.

Rich offers a one-on-one relationship with his clients. When you contact his office, you will speak directly with him.  You can arrange for a brief phone conference at no charge. Rich represents clients from across North Carolina, including Raleigh, Durham, Wilmington, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Charlotte, and more. He is available to meet with prospective clients outside of Chapel Hill when circumstances permit. Evening appointments are also available.

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