Ethnic discrimination occurs when an employee or job applicant is treated unfavorably because of their ethnicity. In Colorado, ethnic discrimination is an illegal employment practice that is in violation of both federal and state laws.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.) and the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (Co. Rev. Stat. § 24-34-402) prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. Although neither law explicitly mentions the words “ethnic” or “ethnicity,” they have been interpreted by courts and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission as prohibiting discrimination because of ethnicity. Most of the time, ethnic discrimination will overlap with racial discrimination, national origin discrimination, religious discrimination, or discrimination on the basis of color.
What is a Hostile Work Environment?
Ethnic discrimination can occur because of an adverse employment action, such as being fired or not being promoted, or because of harassment in the workplace. When a claim of discrimination is based on workplace harassment, this is called a hostile work environment claim.
Harassing actions that can contribute to a hostile work environment include:
- Jokes based on one’s ethnicity;
- Circulating work emails with offensive ethnic comments;
- Posting offensive cartoons or pictures in the workplace;
- Derogatory comments about an ethnicity; and
- Ethnic, racial, or religious slurs.
In order for behavior to amount to a hostile work environment, it must be either severe or continuous. For example, one use of a joke or ethnic slur – although offensive – will not create a hostile work environment. However, repeated ethnic slurs or derogatory comments often do create a hostile work environment.
Who Can Bring a Hostile Work Environment Claim?
The employee who is the target of the ethnic harassment often has the right to bring a hostile work environment claim against the employer, provided that the employer has been notified of the harassment and has failed to exercise reasonable care to correct and prevent the harassment.
Ethnic harassment can occur if a supervisor or co-workers perceive an employee as being of a particular ethnicity, even if they are not. Likewise, the employee bringing the hostile work environment claim does not need to be the recipient of the harassment; they need only be adversely affected by the behavior.
Contact a Colorado Hostile Work Environment Attorney
If you have been a victim of ethnic harassment, you may be entitled to job reinstatement, back pay, or money damages. At HKM Employment Attorneys LLP, we are proud to assist victims of ethnic harassment in getting the help they need. We have experience representing victims, as well as defending employers against ethnic harassment claims and lawsuits.
If you are a victim of ethnic harassment in the workplace, contact HKM Employment Attorneys LLP online or call us at 303-991-3075 for a private consultation.