Ethnicity is the term that encompasses a group of people’s shared religious, linguistic, physical, geographical and racial traits. Commonly recognized ethnicities in the United States include White American, African American, Native American and Alaskan Native American, Pacific Islander and Asian American. Sadly, members of ethnic minorities are often subject to various forms of harassment and discrimination both inside and outside of the workplace. Discrimination in the workplace because of a person’s perceived or actual ethnicity is illegal and specifically prohibited under both federal and California state law. In Los Angeles, common types of ethnic discrimination include exposure to harassment, ethnic slurs, and stereotypes that are based on a person’s perceived or actual ethnicity.
Harassment is the specific form of discrimination that can give rise to a hostile work environment claim. Harassment can include all forms of visual, verbal or physical harassment. Such claims allege that because of harassment in the workplace, such actions created a workplace environment that is abusive, hostile, and disadvantageous to certain employees because of their perceived or actual ethnicity. If you are an employee and feel that you have experienced ethnic harassment in the workplace, it is important to report such conduct to the California Department of Employment and Housing as soon as the harassment occurs.
Ethnic Discrimination and Hostile Work Environment Claims
To establish a hostile work environment claim based on ethnic discrimination, you will be required to prove that:
- You were either an employee, job applicant or person who provided services pursuant to a contract with the accused employer;
- You were subjected to unwanted harassment because of your actual or perceived association and/or membership with an ethnic group;
- Such harassment was so persistent, severe or widespread that a reasonable member of an ethnic group in your circumstances would have considered the work environment to be hostile and/or abusive;
- You considered the work environment to be hostile and/or abusive;
- The accused participated, assisted with or should have known about the ethnic harassment;
- You suffered a harm as a result of the hostile work environment; and
- The ethnic harassment was a substantial factor in causing the resulting harm.
Once legal proceedings have commenced, presenting a prima facie case for hostile work environment ethnic discrimination claims requires that the following elements be presented:
- The victim belonged to a protected group ie. was discriminated because of perceived or actual ethnicity;
- The victim was subjected to unwelcome harassment;
- The unwelcome harassment was based on the victim’s ethnicity;
- The harassment was sufficiently pervasive that it altered employment conditions and created and abusive work environment; and
- The accused employer was liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior ie. officially liable for the conduct of all employees that occurred within the normal course of employment.
Even if your employer did not specifically conduct or participate in the ethnic discrimination, giving rise to the hostile work environment, that employer can still be held personally liable, in Los Angeles. In fact, an employer is responsible for all actions of an employee, supervisor or agent, when the employer knew about the ethnic discrimination, or should have known that conduct was occurring and still failed to take immediate and appropriate corrective measures. However, a supervisor at the workplace who failed to take actions to prevent harassment would not be held personally liable.
Legal Representation for Hostile Work Environment Suits in Los Angeles
Hostile work environment claims caused by ethnic harassment and discrimination are very serious legal matters. If you have either been accused of ethnic harassment in the workplace, or are a victim of such harassment, it is important to seek the help of skilled employment attorneys. Give us a call today at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in Los Angeles, California to discuss your case and to discover how we can be of service.