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Race Discrimination

It’s illegal for an employer to discriminate against a current employee or potential new hire on the basis of race or national origin.

It is also illegal for anyone offering housing for rent or sale (a landlord, housing facility, realtor, or professional involved in the housing process), any place of public accommodation (hotels, restaurants, etc.), or other business open to the public to discriminate against anyone for these reasons. The federal Civil Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act, and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) provide numerous legal protections against discrimination because of a person’s race or national origin.

Federal & State Laws Protect Against Employment Discrimination

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals because of their race or national origin. This means that an employer covered by this federal statute cannot discriminate against someone in hiring, promotions, wages, termination, or layoffs, and may not treat an employee more or less favorably because of race or origin.

Although race or race or national origin cannot ever be a “bona fide occupational qualification” that would allow an exemption to the anti-discrimination rules, there is a very limited exception for situations in which race is an integral part of the story or purpose of an artistic work, such as a movie or play.

Retaliating against an existing or potential employee for complaining about racial discrimination is illegal, as is segregating an employee into a job based on his or her race or origin. (For example, it would be illegal to assign an employee to a non-customer contact position because of actual or perceived racial preferences of the employer’s customers.)

It is also unlawful for an employer to take an “adverse employment action” against a worker on the basis of race or national origin or in retaliation for a complaint about discrimination. According to the EEOC, “an action is an adverse employment action if a reasonable employee would have found the action materially adverse, which means it might have dissuaded a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination.”

Examples of “adverse employment actions” include

  • Termination, refusal to hire, or denial of promotion,
  • Threats, unjustified negative evaluations, unjustified negative references, or increased surveillance, and
  • Any other action that is likely to deter reasonable people from pursuing their rights (like an assault or bringing unfounded civil or criminal charges).

The NJLAD provides essentially the same protections as Title VII, extending them to virtually every employee working in New Jersey.

Protection from Workplace Harassment Based on Race or National Origin

It is unlawful under both the Civil Rights Act and NJLAD for anyone in the workplace, including supervisors, coworkers, and clients, to harass an employee because of his or her race or national origin. Illegal “harassment” is conduct that creates a hostile or offensive work environment due to its severity or ongoing nature or that results in an adverse employment action. If the harassment is intentional, extreme, and outrageous, an employee may also be able to file a lawsuit for intentional infliction of emotional distress under New Jersey state law.

Federal Law Prohibits Housing Discrimination Based on Race

The Fair Housing Act (FHA), part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, makes it unlawful to refuse to sell to, rent to, or negotiate with any person because of that person’s race or national origin. The FHA also bars

  • Discrimination in the terms, conditions, or privilege of purchasing or renting or selling a dwelling,
  • Advertisements for the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicate a preference or prohibition based on race or national origin,
  • Coercion, threat, intimidation, or interference with a person’s enjoyment or exercise of housing rights because of race or national origin, and
  • Retaliating against a person or organization that aids or encourages the exercise or enjoyment of fair housing rights.

The Supreme Court has further ruled that the FHA prohibits housing-related actions that have a discriminatory result even if they weren’t intentionally discriminatory. This is called “disparate impact.”

NJLAD Protects Public Accommodation and Services

The NJLAD prohibits an owner, manager, or employee of any place that offers goods, services, and facilities to the general public, including restaurants, hotels, service providers, medical offices, entertainment establishments, etc., from directly or indirectly denying or withholding any accommodation, benefit, privilege, or service to anyone because of his or her race or national origin. It is unlawful for a private club or association to discriminate with respect to granting membership or allowing advantages and privileges on the basis of race or national origin.

What to Do If You Are the Victim of Discrimination

Victims of discrimination based on their race or national origin in New Jersey may file claims with two primary agencies. For violations of federal laws, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) handles race and national origin discrimination claims, while the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights (DCR) handles claims related to violations of state laws. Not all employers are covered by both state and federal anti-discrimination laws, and the remedies available under each law are different.

If you believe you’ve been the victim of discrimination based on your race or national origin, you should talk to an attorney experienced in both federal and New Jersey anti-discrimination laws. An experienced employment and anti-discrimination attorney can help you determine whether you may have a claim, and if so, help you decide which venue would be best for you to pursue an action.

To schedule an appointment at the Basking Ridge, Oradell, or Newark, New Jersey, law offices of The Mark Law Firm, contact the firm online or call 973-440-2311, 908-626-1001, or 201-787-9406 today. Our experienced team can help you determine whether you may have a claim for race or national origin discrimination or other employment law violations.

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