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How does race discrimination differ from color discrimination?

Residents of New York, whether they work in a factory, at a construction site or in an office, deserve to be treated fairly in the workplace. The law recognizes this and makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against a worker based on that worker's race or color. However, there is a difference between discrimination based on a person's race and discrimination based on a person's color.

An employer discriminates against a worker based on that worker's race if the employer treats a worker unfavorably because of certain characteristics of the worker's race. This might include the worker's facial features, skin color or hair texture. Discrimination based on color, on the other hand, occurs when the employer treats a worker unfavorably due to the color of the worker's skin, regardless of the person's race.

Unlawful discrimination in the workplace includes discrimination in the hiring process, in laying workers off, in promoting workers, in providing workers with benefits or in any other aspect of employment. In addition, employment policies could be considered discriminatory and unlawful if they have a negative impact on the employment of a certain class of people and these policies are not necessary to the effective operation of the workplace.

Moreover, it is also against the law for employers or other workers to commit harassment based on another worker's race or color, for example, by using racial slurs, making offensive or derogatory statements or displaying offensive symbols. Keep in mind, however, that mere teasing or one-time incidents may not rise to the level of harassment. In order for acts to be considered illegal harassment, they must occur with such frequency or severity that the work environment becomes hostile or adverse employment decisions are made.

Despite the fact that it is illegal, workplace discrimination based on a worker's race or color still occurs on an all-too frequent basis. Workers who believe they have been the victims of unlawful race discrimination, color discrimination or harassment should take the necessary steps to protect their rights and hold the perpetrators of the discrimination or harassment accountable.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Race/Color Discrimination," accessed Feb. 20, 2017

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