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Race Discrimination in California

This country has a long history of racism, and the state of California is no different. It has been built into institutions and ways of life. Discrimination based on race, however, is unlawful in many areas of our life, from housing to employment to public services and many other areas. Race discrimination persists, and so when it causes you harm, you may be entitled to file a claim and eventually a lawsuit.

At The Sentinel Firm, our race discrimination attorneys in Los Angeles understand what our clients have experienced and will use our resources to make sure you obtain the compensation and other remedies available to you in your unique case. Contact us at 213-985-1150 to schedule a free consultation today.

What Constitutes Race Discrimination in the Workplace?

Federal law prohibits any type of discrimination based on a person's race. Racial discrimination in the workplace occurs when a current employee, or an applicant for a job, is treated unfavorably because of their race. Employees or applicants may also experience race discrimination because of a relationship they have with a person of a different race. It is also possible for a person to racially discriminate against someone of their own race. 

Racial discrimination includes unfavorable treatment due to a person's characteristics that are typically associated with a particular race. This includes the color of their skin, the texture of their hair, and other physical traits. 

Another related type of discrimination is color discrimination. Color discrimination occurs when an employee or applicant is treated unfavorably based on the complexion, or color, of their skin. 

Keep in mind that many states offer more protections based on race and color. If you are in California, contact The Sentinel Firm to get a better understanding of our state's laws on race discrimination. This is also important because the process to address race discrimination in the workplace varies from state to state, too.

Types of Racial Discrimination in the Workplace in California

Discrimination based on race is rarely carried out in a direct, overt manner. Most employers will not tell an applicant they are not getting the position because they are Asian, Indian, or black. Most employers will not tell you that your co-worker who is white got the job because they are white. Race or color discrimination happens in less overt ways through what are known as disparate treatment and disparate impact.

Disparate Treatment

Disparate treatment, often viewed as intentional discrimination, occurs when people of one race are treated differently than people of another race. For example, a store may hire both white people and black people, but only the white employees interact with customers while the black employees work behind the scenes stocking or packing products. Disparate treatment can occur in other ways, too, like giving better benefits to employees of one race over another race or reprimanding employees differently for the same poor performance or poor behavior.

Disparate Impact   

Disparate impact can be unintentional and occurs when a facially neutral company policy, procedure, process, or requirement has an adverse effect on employees of a certain race or color. For example, an employer may have a policy prohibiting the hiring of people who have a criminal record, but people with a criminal record impact black and brown people more than white people.

Examples of Race/Color Discrimination in California

While some types of racial and color discrimination are obvious, others are more subtle. Having examples of known unlawful race or color discrimination is probably one of the best ways to understand if, in your unique situation, you may be experiencing racial discrimination that is also unlawful. Below are descriptions of some of the more common ways people experience race discrimination in California.


Racial harassment remains pervasive in many workplaces. Harassment involves the use of racial slurs, racist jokes, and offensive messages by anyone in the workplace. Harassment must create a hostile work environment, meaning simple teasing – even if harmful – does not constitute unlawful racial harassment. 


Stereotyping occurs when the same characteristics are assumed in all members of a certain group. Personal differences are not taken into consideration. Generally speaking, stereotyping focuses on negative traits and is based on false beliefs and misconceptions.

Racial Profiling

As a type of stereotyping, racial profiling occurs when stereotypes about race drive an action that is taken for public protection, safety, or security. Race is used as a basis for suspecting or accusing a person of having engaged in illegal activity.

Associational Discrimination

Associational discrimination occurs when a person is treated in an unfavorable manner due to their association with a person of a different race. They could be the person's spouse, other family members, or friends. 


Racial prejudice occurs when a person has preconceived notions about someone based solely on their race. Due to these negative feelings, they treat the person as less than others. 

Same-Race Discrimination

While most racism occurs between two people of different races, it is possible for racism to occur between two people of the same race. Treating someone less favorably due to their race is still racism no matter the race of the person committing the unfair acts. 

What Should Employees in California Do if Discriminated Against Based on Race or Skin Color?

When an employee is discriminated against based on their race or the color of their skin, there are multiple steps to take.

  1. Report the racial discrimination. You should report any indication of discrimination to your superiors or human resources. Of course, many people are worried about reporting it because they fear retaliation in the form of termination or demotion – and that is a valid fear because it happens more than you might think. You are protected by federal and state laws against retaliatory measures taken by an employer, but that is not too much comfort when you depend on your paycheck.
  2. File a claim. It depends if you are pursuing federal or state remedies (or both), but for federal claims, you must file a claim before you can sue. The same – filing an administrative claim – is true for most states.  
  3. Document everything. From the first recollection of any type of racial discrimination (against you or even someone else) to who did it, what it was, who you reported the discrimination to, what action (if any) was taken, etc. Any details may prove insightful and beneficial to your case.
  4. Contact The Sentinel Firm. This step may be the first step you take, especially if you fear reporting discrimination. We can be at your side throughout, guiding you, negotiating on your behalf, and filing claims and a subsequent lawsuit, if it comes to that.  

In the end, racial discrimination is wrong. It is damaging to the recipient of the discrimination. It is damaging to workplace culture. And it is damaging to our economy. If you have suffered racial discrimination, you deserve compensation and whatever other remedies are available to you. 

Contact an Employment Law Attorney in Los Angeles Today

Racial discrimination is illegal in the workplace, as it is in other areas of life – like housing. No one should be subjected to discrimination based on the color of their skin. At The Sentinel Firm, our employment lawyer in California helps clients who have suffered harm because of racial discrimination in the workplace. To learn more about unlawful employment discrimination and to determine if you have a case, contact us either by filling out the online form or calling us at 213-985-1150 to schedule a free consultation.

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