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How do race discrimination cases work?

Race discrimination continues to be a problem throughout the country. Unfortunately, news reports of allegations of discrimination at major employers are not uncommon. Most recently, workers stepped forward to accuse auto manufacturer Tesla Motors of blatant and unmitigated race discrimination. The group claims Tesla officials would place workers into more physically demanding positions or pass them up for promotions based on their race. The allegations also state leadership failed to address the use of racial slurs and racial graffiti within the workplace.

Tesla currently faces 10 lawsuits for race discrimination and sexual harassment, one of which accuses CEO Elon Musk and Tesla’s board of directors of failing to take worker complaints seriously and fostering a toxic workplace.

This is not the first time Tesla has faced these types of allegations. Laws are in place to help hold employers accountable who violate these rights, and last year a former elevator operator was able to use these laws to win a racial discrimination case against the company. The court awarded the man $15 million.

How do these the laws work?

Protections against race discrimination are present at both state and federal levels. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal to discriminate against an employee based on their race and allows for compensation and punitive damages when an employee can establish that an employer intentionally violated these rights. This means that the worker would get funds to cover missed compensation as well as the possibility for additional monetary awards meant to serve as a punishment against the employer and reduce the risk of future infractions.

The federal law generally applies to employers who have fifteen or more employees. California state law extends these protections to those with five or more employees. Examples of applicable violations include a refusal to hire, limitations to employment, or otherwise discriminate with respect to compensation or terms of employment because of one’s race. Illegal discrimination can happen at any stage of the employment process, from recruiting to termination of employment.

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing generally enforces these laws.

What should I do if I believe I am the victim of racial discrimination?

Those who believe they are the victim of discrimination based on race can file a claim to hold their employer accountable. These cases often require the victim gather evidence to support the claim that the victim was treated differently than someone of a different race without any legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the disparate treatment. This evidence could be present in the form of paperwork, testimony, or a combination of the two.

There are many nuances to the application of these laws. It is a good idea to have an attorney experienced in this niche area of employment law review the case to discuss how it applies to your situation.