While overt and blatant racial discrimination may be less common than it was fifty years ago, more subtle forms of racial discrimination are unfortunately still happening every day. One type of such discrimination is what is commonly called “hostile work environment” discrimination, a specific type of harassment discrimination.
What is Hostile Work Environment Discrimination?
Hostile work environment claims are one type of harassment claim. Certain types of harassment were made illegal by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes harassment a form of employment discrimination. In order to be covered by the act, harassment must be based on membership in a protected class. A protected class is a group of people who are legally protected, usually due to a long history of being on the receiving end of discrimination or other mistreatment examples of protected classes include race, ethnicity, religion, sex, age for people age 40 or older, and disability. Sexual orientation and transgender status are considered protected classes under some laws, but they are not explicitly covered by the Civil Rights Act.
Since race is a protected class, harassment based on your race can violate the Civil Rights Act. Harassment based on what college you went to or what sports team you root for, though, would not qualify for protection under the Civil Rights Act. There are two types of illegal harassment under the Civil Rights Act:
- Harassment becomes unlawful if enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment;
- Harassment becomes unlawful if the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.
Minor offenses are not enough to qualify as harassment. Neither are isolated incidents, unless they are extremely severe. Thus, one joke about your race, while offensive, does not constitute a hostile work environment. However, repeated offensive jokes, use of slurs, threats, ridicule, or mockery is illegal. The key is that to be illegal, these behaviors must be severe, pervasive, and recurring.
If those three requirements are met, then you may have a federal claim based on a hostile work environment for discrimination.
Racial Discrimination Under Oregon Law
Oregon Law also prohibits racial discrimination in the work place. Oregon Revised Statute 659A.030 is the relevant statute. This statute protects you from retaliation for filing a federal claim. If you claim in federal court that you have been subjected to a hostile work environment, and then you are retaliated against by your boss in some way, you may also have a state claim.
Contact an Employment Law Attorney
Even though the conduct underlying these cases is very serious, lawmakers have put strict time limits in place that can really limit your rights to pursue your claim in court. Because of this, it is very important to contact an attorney as soon as possible. We here at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP specialize in employment law, and we would be happy to discuss your case. You can reach us at (503) 398-1130 or fill out our simple online form.