Through my years as an employment law attorney, a significant amount of my practice has involved representing victims of race discrimination. Despite the advances that we have made as a society, racism remains a virulent part of the workplace, although it often surfaces in subtle and covert ways. As a white American, I cannot profess to know what it is like to walk into a workplace and have to “prove” myself because of the color of my skin or be held to a higher standard for workplace performance. But I have learned in a profound and emotional way from my race discrimination clients that our society continues to employ a double standard for white and non-white individuals. I remain deeply committed to holding employers accountable for the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) racism that still pervades the workplace. Privacy and confidentiality provisions in settlement agreements prohibit me from identifying cases, named parties, and the existence and terms of settlement agreements. However, if you are a victim of race discrimination, I will take all necessary steps to protect your rights and to defeat attempts to minimize the impact of race in employment decisions.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the Illinois Human Rights Act (“IHRA”) and various local ordinances prohibit employment discrimination against an employee or job applicant based on race. Under these laws, it is illegal for an employer to make employment decision regarding hiring, promotion, demotion, termination, compensation, job training or other terms and conditions of employment on the basis of your race. These laws also prohibit employers from creating a hostile work environment based on race. Racial slurs, insults, jokes, graffiti, e-mails or other comments or conduct based on your race constitute unlawful harassment.
The same laws that protect you from race discrimination also protect you from retaliation for complaining about race discrimination or participating in an investigation of race discrimination. As an employee, you have a legal right to complain about race discrimination in the workplace. If you exercise your legal right to complain, it is illegal for your employer to “retaliate” against you by firing you, harassing you, stripping you of your responsibilities, refusing to give you deserved raises, issuing unwarranted discipline, etc.
Title VII and the IHRA applies to employers with at least 15 employees.