Race Discrimination

Massachusetts is an “at will” employment state. The employer-employee relationship can end by either party, at any time, for any reason. However, it is illegal for an employer to take an adverse action against an employee based on race, ethnicity, or national origin. An employer also cannot retaliate against an employee who opposes, reports, or speaks out against race discrimination.

Understanding Your Rights

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Massachusetts Fair Employment Practices Act (M.G.L. c. 151B), it is unlawful to discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of his or her race, color, or national origin. Both state and federal law prohibit intentional discrimination as well neutral job policies that disproportionately affect minorities in a negative way.

Race discrimination can come in many forms, from the most obvious to the extremely subtle. Employers are liable for conduct that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment or that interferes with an employee’s work performance. Examples of such conduct include:

  • Ethnic slurs
  • Racial “jokes”
  • Offensive or derogatory comments
  • Other verbal or physical conduct based on an individual’s race, color, or national origin

An employer may also violate state and federal law where it excludes minorities from positions or groups employees such that certain jobs are predominately held by individuals of a certain race, color, or national origin. Moreover, race discrimination may be actionable even where no employment relationship exists. For example, during the recruiting process, requests for pre-employment information regarding an applicant’s race that is utilized as a basis for making selection decisions may constitute evidence of discrimination.