Color Discrimination

New Jersey and New York Law Prohibit Discrimination Based on Skin Color

It is a violation of your employment law rights if your employer discriminates against you based on the color of your skin. For example, it is illegal for a company to fire you, chose not to hire you, or harass you because you are black, brown, white, yellow, red or another skin color. Similarly, it is illegal for a company to demote you, pass you up for a promotion, suspend you or pay you a lower salary due to the color of your skin.

The amount of pigmentation in your skin has nothing to do with your ability to do your job, and should not be a consideration in the employment decisions your company makes.

Color discrimination is often (but not always) related to race discrimination, national origin discrimination or both. For example, employers that discriminate against African-American or Hispanic employees often also discriminate against employees who are black or have darker-colored skin.

In other instances companies treat employees less favorably based on their skin color in ways that have little or nothing to do with their race or national origin. For instance, a supervisor or executive might treat a Latino employee who has darker skin worse than another Latino worker who has lighter skin or who is white. While this might not be race or national origin discrimination, it still is totally unacceptable behavior and is legally actionable.

Color Discrimination Is Not Always Black and White

Color discrimination also can occur between people who are members of the same race or who were born in the same country. For example, there is evidence that some African-Americans discriminate against other African-Americans based on the darkness or tone of their skin. Discrimination because you are darker-skinned or lighter-skinned is just as illegal as any other type of color discrimination. This form of unlawful discrimination, which is sometimes referred to as “colorism” or “intra-race” color discrimination, is legally prohibited.

Discrimination Because of Your Skin Color is Illegal

Your employer should judge you based on your skills, abilities and experience, rather than based on the complexion of your skin. That is why color discrimination and harassment violate the law in both New Jersey and New York.

The Law Prohibits Retaliation

Like all forms or unlawful discrimination, the law prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee who complains about color discrimination in the workplace. As a result, it would be illegal for a company to fire or otherwise retaliate against someone who makes a good faith complaint to a supervisor, human resources representative or state or federal agency that his employer has engaged in color discrimination.

Contact an Employment Law Expert

You should not have to accept discriminatory treatment at your job. If you have been a victim of discrimination or harassment at your job based on your skin color, then you should contact Rabner Allcorn Baumgart & Ben-Asher. You can contact us online, or you can call us in New Jersey at (973) 744-4000. We can help explain your legal rights, discuss your options and fight to protect your workplace rights.