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What is Racial Discrimination and Harassment?

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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency responsible for enforcing laws that limit discrimination in the workplace, filed a lawsuit in 2017 against The Village at Hamilton Pointe, LLC (The Village), as well as their management company TLC Management. The EEOC filed this lawsuit on behalf of a number of named defendants’ employees as well as the entire class of all current and former black employees.

The EEOC describes in the lawsuit how black employees from this company were denied the ability to enter resident rooms when certain residents complained about having black caregivers, with the employer even going so far as to post signs around their facility blocking black employees from specific areas. The suit also describes how black employees were subject to slurs and other forms of harassment at the hands of the defendants’ other employees as well as residents of the defendants’ facilities. Claimants go on to say that this mistreatment lasted at least two years before this lawsuit was filed. As of now, the suit against The Village is still active, though TLC Management is no longer a defendant as they received summary judgment in their favor.

The facts that the employees describe seem to paint a clear picture of a discriminatory work environment. But what exactly do the employees have to do in order to win their claim in court?

How Does a Racial Discrimination and Harassment Case Work?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prevents employers from discriminating against any employee “with respect to [their] compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment” because of that employee’s race. This act applies to most private companies that employ more than fifteen people, as well as state public programs and employment agencies.

Additionally, the U.S. Supreme Court in McDonnell Douglas Corp v. Green established the basic elements of a claim under Title VII. Put simply, the claimant must show as follows:

  1. That they are a member of a “protected class;”
  1. That they are qualified for their position;
  1. That they suffered an “adverse employment action;” and
  1. That the circumstances of that action give rise to an inference of discrimination.

A “protected class” under this statute means any race, color, religion, sex, or national origin that serves as the basis for discrimination. “Adverse employment action,” on the other hand, is a much broader term that can include any action that an employee may have felt was “materially adverse” or that “might have dissuaded a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination.”

How Does Title VII Apply Here?

Here, as described above, these employees have alleged that they faced mistreatment on the basis that they are black, which is a protected class under Title VII. Further, while there is limited information with which to work, it appears that, because the defendants continuously employed the claimants as workers, they were qualified for their jobs. This satisfies the first two elements of a Title VII claim.

As for an adverse employment action, the claimants allege that they were barred from entering certain areas or caring for certain residents, as well as being subject to slurring and harassment. They, again, describe this mistreatment as being over the course of several years. Because the defendant’s black employees were subject to different, worse working conditions than other non-black employees of the defendant, those black employees suffered adverse employment actions against them, satisfying part three of the test.

Finally, the facts in this lawsuit allege clearly how this different treatment gives rise to an inference of discrimination. All of the mistreatment detailed in the complaint arose because these employees are black. At this point, from the information available, no other explanation seems plausible. However, the outcome of this lawsuit is still pending.

Do you believe that that your employer has unfairly discriminated against you? The NH employment attorneys at Douglas, Leonard, and Garvey have experience handling all discrimination claims and other claims under Title VII, as well as a reputation for success. Our office can be reached at (603) 288-1403 or through our online contact form.