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What Does My Job Have To Do When I Report Race Discrimination?

On Behalf of | Dec 6, 2019 | Areas of Practice |

3 People of Color reporting Race Discrimination.

Reporting Race Discrimination at work shouldn’t come at a price.

Best Ohio Employment Discrimination Attorney Answer: How do I file with the EEOC? Do all claims have to go through the EEOC? Do I need a lawyer before I file with the EEOC? Does race discrimination claims have to be white against black?

There are so many instances of employment discrimination in
the workplace –
race/color, religion, gender/sex, national
origin
, age, and disability discrimination,
to name a few. In 2019, sadly, it does not seem like workplace discrimination
should be this prevalent. However, the reality is, that there are still bosses
and managers out there who feel like they can treat their subordinates and coworkers
any way they please. It’s sad, but still a reality. A
recent case from
New York demonstrates why it is important to consult an experienced
employment
discrimination attorney

before filing with the
Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission
(“EEOC”).

Lisa Fisher began working for Mermaid Manor Home for Adults
in August 2010 as a home health aide. Mermaid Manor staff had a unique
demographic. There was a clear divide between the African American employees
and the West Indian employees. Lisa is a Black employee. Pretty much as soon as
she started working she noticed that the West-Indian coworkers offered to help
other West-Indian coworkers whenever help was needed. However, the West-Indian
coworkers never offered to help African American coworkers with precisely the
same tasks when they needed help. Lisa reported the race discrimination and
specifically that there were multiple times when she needed help and she asked
some of her West-Indian colleagues for assistance and they flat out refused to
help her.

But that was only the beginning. Lisa noticed as soon as she started working that the West-Indian coworkers were permitted to “take over” the break room. The West-Indian coworkers congregated in the break room and segregated it from use by African American staff members. The West-Indian staff members made it very unwelcome for African Americans to be in the same room. The West-Indian staff members made belittling and negative comments to the black staff members in an effort to get them to leave. Lisa claimed that the supervisors and bosses contributed to the behavior by engaging in the ostracizing behavior towards African American employees. But, Lisa put up with the behavior because she enjoyed her work, and truly loved interacting with the patients in her care.

In April 2013, one of Lisa’s coworkers, Yvonne Kelly, took
photos of Lisa while they were both working with a patient. Yvonne is of West-Indian
descent. Another coworker of West Indian descent, Lisi Laurent, took the photos
from Yvonne and created a picture collage of Lisa paired with pictures of
Planet of the Apes movie. Lisi posted the collage on social media with the
caption, “Yo don’t my fucking coworker looks like conellsusssssss from the
movie PLANET of the APES lmfaoooooo.” Even in 2013, it was glaringly obvious
that another human being should never be compared to an ape—let alone an
African American. Certainly, if this was a Caucasian employee doing this to an
African American employee, there would be justifiable outrage. Should it be any
less racially offensive if one minority is doing this to another minority? Of
course not!

That is one of the most offensive and wrong things that her
coworkers could have done to her. This behavior has no place in society, let
alone a workplace.

In May 2013, a friend showed Lisa the picture collage that
was posted on social media. The next day, Lisa went to her supervisor Kathy,
and reported the picture collage a race discrimination and told her that the
two responsible for the collage were Laurent and Kelly. At first, it seemed
like Mermaid Manor took her complaint seriously. That same day, Lisa met with
another supervisor named Malka. Lisa told Malka that she was being racially harassed
and discriminated against by her coworkers. Rather than being concerned or
sympathetic, Malka dismissed Lisa’s concerns, and told Lisa that she was
“bigger than that,” and that her coworkers were jealous of her. Malka ended the
meeting by telling Lisa that she did not consider this a serious issue. Whaaaaaaaaat?
Really?

On May 13, 2013, there was a meeting at Mermaid Manor attended by the managers and all the home health aides. At that meeting one of the supervisors, Marty, briefly addressed the collage incident and stated that Mermaid Manner was looking into it but assured everyone that “nobody is going to be fired.” He also told the home health aides that taking photographs of individuals at Mermaid Manor was prohibited without the permission from the individual being photographed. Right. So the problem is taking pictures and not the racially motivated harassment that followed? Got it.

So, to summarize, this meeting was basically a pass for the
harassers. After this meeting, it became glaringly obvious that no matter how
bad an employee mistreated a coworker, they were not going to be fired. Essentially,
Lisa’s race discrimination harassers got a free pass. After that, Lisa said it
felt like open season.

After this meeting the discrimination worsened. After the
meeting, her West-Indian colleagues went out of their way to bump into her and
make physical contact with her. This was clearly in retaliation
for reporting the picture collage and other harassing behavior. Retaliation for
reporting race discrimination is also illegal. (See Can
I Be Fired For Reporting Discrimination To HR?
; Fired
In Retaliation For Reporting Sex Harassment?
; Can
I Be Fired For Reporting Racial Discrimination? I Need The Best Race
Discrimination Attorney And Top Wrongful Termination Lawyer In Ohio!
).

On February 14, 2014,
Lisa called off of work because she was sick. When she returned to work on
February 16, 2014, she discovered that her work book had been destroyed. She
was told by an African American coworker that Kelly was behind it.

From May 2013 through February 2014, Lisa complained at
least two to three times every week to supervisors about the ongoing racial harassment,
race discrimination and retaliation she suffered. Mermaid Manor simply failed
to take any action what so ever to protect Lisa and intervene on her behalf. That
is completely unacceptable. When an employer becomes aware of discriminatory
behavior, or should have been aware of discriminatory behavior, they had a duty
to investigate and remedy the situation.

However, that’s not the treatment that Lisa received.
Instead, her supervisors repeatedly dismissed her complaints. On one such
instance, a supervisor told Lisa that she was “making a big deal out of
nothing.”

On July 24, 2013, Lisa hired an attorney and filed a charge with the EEOC. (See Top Employment Law Attorney: Do Not File With The EEOC Without Doing This FirstFile With The EEOC Or Get A Lawyer? Call The Right AttorneyShould I Get A Lawyer To Help Me File An EEOC Charge?; and Should I File With The EEOC On My Own? Call The Right Attorney). Here, Lisa made a fantastic choice by seeking legal counsel before she filed with the EEOC. Clients come to us all the time after they filed with the EEOC and trust us when we say, it is so much easier for everyone involved if an attorney is involved first. Lisa filed her lawsuit on June 3, 2014.

The interesting thing about
Lisa’s case is that instead of alleging discrimination on the basis of race in
violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964—she raised a national origin
complaint even though she did not initiate a national origin complaint with the
EEOC. People just assume that they must
file with the EEOC. However, there are plenty of instances in which filing with
the EEOC is not necessary. An experienced employment
attorney
can assist with the decision on whether to file with the
EEOC.

For instance, if the cause of action
occurred in a “favorable” venue for employment cases, there may be no need to
file with the EEOC because there is no need to pursue federal court. Sometimes
knowing whether to file in state or federal court is confusing, and therefore it
is sometimes difficult to decided whether to file with the EEOC. That is why
having a trained eye take a look at everything before a complaint is filed with
the EEOC is best.

The Court went through a lengthy analysis about whether
Lisa’s complaint for discrimination on the basis of national origin should be
dismissed because she did not file that count with the EEOC but chose to file
it in her complaint.

However, the Eastern District of New York, located in the Second Circuit determined that:

The line
between national origin discrimination and racial discrimination is difficult
to trace, courts have warned that an attempt to make such a demarcation before
both parties have had an opportunity to offer evidence at trial is
inappropriate. Similarly, courts should not attempt to draw overly fine
distinctions between race and national origin claims as part of the threshold
exhaustion inquiry prior to the full development of a plaintiff’s claims, given
the potential overlap between the two forms of discrimination, and the “loose
pleading” which is permitted in the EEOC complaint.

Lisa’s claim for national origin
discrimination was permitted to move forward because the court was reluctant to
draw the distinction between race discrimination and national origin
discrimination. Lisa lucked out. Just to be safe, she probably should have
checked all the boxes that she thought she may bring when she filed with the
EEOC. But again, this just highlights the importance of having a trained eye
look at everything before filing with the EEOC.

If you feel
that you are being discriminated based on your race, whatever race that may be,
then call the right attorney. Race discrimination
includes being harassed, fired, wrongfully terminated, discriminated against,
demoted, wrongfully disciplined, and denied wages. When you call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation,
you will meet with a race discrimination lawyer from The Spitz Law Firm who
will help you determine the best way to pursue your legal claims. Call our office at 866-797-6040.

Disclaimer:

The materials
available at the top of this race discrimination page and on this employment
law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of
providing legal advice. If you are still asking: “What should I do if my race
discrimination complaints are being ignored by HR”, “I’m being discriminated
against by another minority”, “my boss is discriminating against me because I’m
black” or “How do I file with the EEOC”, your best option is to contact an Ohio attorney to obtain advice with
respect to race discrimination questions or any particular employment law
issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links
contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The
legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the
individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm,
attorney Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.