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Why you should speak up about racial discrimination

Do you always get the unpleasant tasks at work even though your coworker, who just started, has already been promoted? Does it feel like you're always put on solo jobs in the back room while your co-workers are doing work elsewhere? Do you suspect it's because of your race? If something doesn't smell right, it may be illegal.

What is discrimination?

Thanks to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, discrimination against an employee based on race, religion, ethnicity, sex and color of skin is illegal. Discrimination isn't restricted to being hired or fired based on one of those protected classes, though.

In a more common form called circumstantial evidence (as compared to direct evidence, such as direct statements about your race), discrimination rears its ugly head in promotions, workplace dynamics and groupings of personnel where workers of the protected minority groups are segregated from their peers. If you've been put on dead end tasks, seen less qualified workers advance or see a pattern against yourself or others of your race, you're likely the victim of discrimination.

HR has to act

Most Human Resources (HR) departments will respond to racial discrimination allegations promptly, protecting their company from expensive lawsuits. HR typically keeps the matter quiet--allegations are personal and confidential information--to make sure that nobody in the company treats you differently because of the complaint. By law, retaliation for complaints about racial discrimination is illegal and if you're experiencing it, you're entitled to protection.

Using a lawyer may be more beneficial

Though HR is an option, they will use their resources to protect the company, sometimes hiring lawyers for an internal investigation. To make sure your own voice is heard, consider speaking with an attorney before filing a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. An attorney will represent you more fairly in an investigation.

You have rights in the workplace, including the right to be yourself with equal opportunity for advancement and recognition. If your bosses or co-workers aren't treating you fairly, use the system to your advantage and make sure they change their ways.

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