Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is illegal for covered employers to subject applicants and employees to adverse actions (e.g. discrimination and harassment) in all aspects of employment on the basis of race, sex, color, religion or national origin. For many people who are aware of these basic details of Title VII, race and color usually mean the same thing.
However, this is not the case. Even if some people denote the terms "race" and "color" as similar to one another, employment laws distinguish the two terms as different from each other despite the overlap.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), racial discrimination in the workplace happens when an employer or an employee singles out a co-worker or creates an employment decision that targets the latter's race. Generally, racial bias in employment often involves the following:
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- The victim's ancestry;
- The victim's illness that is predominant on a certain race (e.g. sickle cell anemia among people with African descent);
- The victim's culture, or how a person of a certain race talks, grooms, or dresses; or
- The victim's association with a certain race (e.g. interracial marriage).
Meanwhile, discrimination on the basis of color happens when employers subject their employees or applicants to an employment decision in which their skin color was used as basis. It could also mean differential treatment of an employer to an employee of the same race or ethnicity. It is considered bias on the basis of color if the employee is terminated because he or she has either light or dark skin.
Here's an example: an employer decided not to promote its experienced black employee and instead hired an inexperienced, white applicant. This situation is considered race discrimination. On the other hand, it is considered color discrimination if the employer, who is light-skinned African-American, decided not to hire a dark-skinned African-American applicant.
There are many instances wherein cases of discrimination sometimes involve both the issue of race and color. Victims of such form of workplace bias must consult with a Los Angeles discrimination attorney so that they can establish their claims against their employer, as well as obtain compensation for the damages they incurred.