You know that racial discrimination is illegal in the workplace, but did you know that discrimination based on skin color is also prohibited? A lot of times, the two clearly overlap, as skin color is one primary indicator of a person’s race. However, it is important to remember that they are not necessarily the same in all situations.
While Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 mentions race as a protected class, it does not explicitly state what it means by “color.” Even so, when courts have examined these cases, they have determined that “color” in this context means “pigmentation, complexion, or skin shade or tone.” That definition comes straight from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Why is this important? For one thing, it means that anyone, of any race, can technically be discriminated against based on the color of their skin. This is true for African Americans, Caucasians, those of Latino descent, and anyone else.
On top of that, any assumption of race can also lead to discrimination even if that person is not actually from that race or ethnicity. Many people make judgments regarding what heritage a person has based on skin tone and physical characteristics alone, without actually asking that person about their race or ethnicity. This can still lead to discrimination allegations regardless of the accuracy of that assumption.
Have you been discriminated against in the workplace based on the color of your skin? If so, it is very important to make sure you understand all of the legal options available to you.