Racial Discrimination

Racial Discrimination

Racial and ethnic discrimination refers to treating someone differently because of where they were born, the way they look, or because of their heritage.  Race, color, and ethnicity can have different meanings to different people, and there is often a lot of overlap.  However, any discrimination based on race, color, or ethnicity is illegal in California.

Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) prohibit employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of race. it is an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate against a person or harass a person because of his or her race or color in any aspect of employment. This includes:

  • Refusing to hire or promote
  • Refusing to select a person for a training program
  • Firing or laying off an employee
  • Discriminating against a person in compensation or in terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, such as by:
    • Assigning different duties 
    • Denying benefits 
    • Reducing salary
    • Paying less

For example, if an employer only promotes white employees, this could be considered race discrimination.  Furthermore, if an employer only hires white applicants, this could also be considered race discrimination.

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Racial discrimination can also involve national origin discrimination in employment is treating an employee or job applicant negatively because they are from a certain country or appear to be from a certain ethnic background.

Race generally refers to an individual’s physical characteristics, such as skin color, hair color, hair texture, hair styles, eye color, and facial features. This also involves referring to a person by a color, such as white, black, brown, red, or yellow.

Ethnicity may refer to cultural characteristics based on where a person was born or where their ancestors came from. This is similar to the definition of “national origin” under California law. National origin refers to an individual’s place of birth or ethnic heritage. This includes:


  • Ancestors
  • Physical, cultural, or linguistic characteristics associated with a national origin group
  • Marriage to or association with a national origin group
  • Tribal affiliation
  • Membership with an organization that promotes the interests of a national origin group
  • Participation in schools associated with a national origin group
  • Attendance in churches, mosques, temples, or religious institutions associated with a national origin group
  • Name associated with a national origin group

Ethnicity can also refer to geographical regions, countries of origin, or languages. 

If you believe that you have been the victim of discrimination based on your race, ethnicity, or national origin, you should contact MSD LLP as soon as possible.  Race discrimination lawsuits are complex, and it is important to have our expert attorneys by your side.  Our exceptional work on behalf of victims of racial discrimination has been featured in the LA Times, SF Chronicle, and KFI.

We can help you understand your rights and options, and get you the results you deserve.