Racism is a very divisive topic in our society today. Racism becomes even more problematic when a person is fired from their job based on race. Proving that you were fired based on race is a difficult thing to do in the legal system; however, employees should never feel that the law is not ready to support them. There were over 15,000 Employment based claims in 2016, many of which were based on Racism in the workplace.
In California, Employees are protected from Racial Discrimination in the workplace by multiple laws, such as California Government Code §12940. This code prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based race.
Technically, any person who believes they have been discriminated against in the workplace, and has any proof or testimony to back up that claim up, has a valid good faith claim for wrongful termination based on race. However, in order to win a case racial discrimination in the workplace in court, a person demonstrate by the majority of the evidence that they were in fact discriminated in the workplace based on race, and that racial discrimination caused harm to their careers. Discrimination based on race in the workplace is different from a Hostile Work Environment based on race, which is another legal claim.
In order to successfully prove a case of racial discrimination against an employer, the following three things must happen during the trial process:
(1) The Employee must make an initial show of proof that they were discriminated against.
This is not a difficult step to overcome, and is designed to merely filter out frivolous cases. Any evidence can be used to demonstrate that an employee has been discriminated against, including alleged statements, emails, witness statements, or employer memorandums. Once an employee has made an initial showing of proof that they were in fact discriminated, it is up to the employer to justify their actions.
(2) The employer is given the opportunity to justify the legitimate reason for their alleged discriminatory actions.
An employer must provide a legitimate reason for their alleged discriminatory actions that are not based on race. If the employer cannot provide a legitimate reason, then the employee will likely win their case. However, employers and their legal teams almost always provide some excuse for the employers potentially racist actions.
(3) The Employee must show by the majority of the evidence that the excuse their employer provided was not true.
This stage of trial is where the rubber meets the road. Here, the employee must show a jury or judge that they were in fact discriminated against. Preparing for this stage is very extensive, with legal teams on both sides spending a lot of time and resources to make their cases. Normally, an employee, through their legal team will interview on the record many of the employees that work, or worked, at the job. These interviews include regular employees and managers alike. Furthermore, unlike in a criminal trial, the people must answer the questions asked because there are no Fifth Amendment Protections in civil cases UNLESS the case could eventually lead to a criminal prosecution. The employer is also required to turn over all emails, paperwork, or memorandums that the employee’s legal team determine might be relevant to winning the employee’s case.
Settlements for Racial Discrimination in the Workplace
The trial process is time and resource consuming. Cases that go to trial are often take over one year to conclude. Most cases for racial discrimination settle before they go to trial because it saves both sides time and money. However, the amount of the settlement is based on factors such as (1) the outrageousness of the employer’s conduct, (2) the career impact that the employee suffers, (3) the amount of resources that employers can dedicate to their legal defenses, and (4) the amount of resources employers have to pay any settlement claim they offer.
Wrongful Termination Due to Race – Conclusion
California is a very employee friendly state, and there are many laws that protect employees from racial discrimination in the workplace. An employee who feels they have been wrongfully terminated due to race can and should defend their rights. If an employee can prove by the majority of the evidence in court that they were discriminated against, they will likely win their case. That is why choosing the right legal team is very important for any person wishing to bring a lawsuit in California.