Racial harassment, including national origin discrimination or harassment, is a grave issue that affects many areas of society and is governed by a wide range of laws, both federal and state. For those in Kansas City facing such challenges, consulting with a Kansas City racial harassment attorney is essential. 

These regulations offer a way for individuals, institutions, and organizations to be held accountable for illegal conduct related to race, color, or national origin discrimination. Working with a Kansas City racial harassment attorney ensures that one understands their rights and legal avenues to seek justice and redress.

Offensive behavior that occurs because of your race is the basic component of racial harassment. Racial slurs, jokes or stereotyping are all examples of the kinds of conduct that can make up racial harassment. This is true even if the behavior targets the race of your spouse or friends.

It is possible for such harassment to rise to the level of racial discrimination if it is sufficiently frequent or severe to create an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment. A Kansas City racial harassment lawyer from Holman Schiavone, LLC  is not only a staunch advocate for justice, but also serves as a beacon of hope for those who have endured the pain of discrimination.

If your employer does not adequately respond to complaints about such treatment, you should contact a racial harassment lawyer at Holman Schiavone, LLC. Call us at  816-399-5149 for a free initial consultation.

A male and female interviewer discussing a black job candidate.

Federal Civil Rights Laws on Discrimination and Harassment

Federal laws play a significant role in the fight against discrimination. The most notable among these is the Civil Rights Act, primarily Title VI and VII. Title VI prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin in any program or activity that receives federal financial assistance.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act specifically prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, and sex. It covers all aspects of employment, from hiring to firing, and applies to all employers with fifteen or more employees. For individuals in Kansas City who believe they’ve been subjected to such discrimination, consulting with a Kansas City racial harassment attorney can be invaluable in understanding their rights and potential remedies.

Federal law also protects employees from an offensive work environment created by racial slurs, racially offensive symbols, or other forms of harassment directed at those of a particular race. Anyone facing such a hostile environment should consider seeking legal advice from a Kansas City racial harassment attorney to address the issue effectively.

A white male employer yelling at a black male employee.

Discrimination and Harassment Laws in Missouri

Missouri law also outlines specific provisions against discrimination. Missouri’s Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, disability, age, and familial status. It applies to housing, public accommodations, and employment and is similar to federal laws but in some ways even more comprehensive. Those experiencing national origin discrimination or harassment based on his or her race or national origin have options when it comes to protection under the law. Consulting with an experienced Kansas City racial harassment attorney can offer clarity and support in navigating these protections.

Missouri law enforcement agencies and courts uphold these protections, ensuring the fair treatment of all residents regardless of their race or national origin. They recognize that discrimination based on a person’s race can have severe and lasting impacts and that everyone, regardless of his or her race, deserves legal protection and remediation. Anyone facing discrimination or racial harassment in the state should strongly consider reaching out to an attorney familiar with Missouri’s anti-discrimination laws for guidance and representation.

Harassment and the Distinction from Discrimination

Harassment and discrimination, while tightly interconnected, are distinct issues under the law. Harassment is a form of discrimination that involves unwanted conduct related to a protected trait, like race, color, or national origin.

Racial harassment might take the form of racial slurs, derogatory remarks, racially offensive symbols, or racial jokes, all of which contribute to creating a hostile environment. Discrimination, on the other hand, generally refers to less favorable treatment based on a person’s race, color, or national origin.

Discrimination could include an adverse employment decision like firing, demoting, or not hiring someone based on their racial group. It also covers policies or practices that may appear neutral but have a disparate impact on a particular racial group.

Both harassment and discrimination are illegal under federal and state law, and they are very often found together. In fact, it is not uncommon for employers to create or permit a harassing environment, all the while claiming innocence on the basis that they have hired someone of a particular national origin at all (and thus, in their own minds, have not discriminated). For this reason, it’s important to understand both discrimination and harassment and to distinguish between them. 

Work with a Kansas City harassment lawyer to understand exactly what laws may have been broken as you consider filing a complaint or even lawsuit due to either harassment or discrimination.

Racial Harassment and Discrimination in the Workplace

The intersection of racial discrimination and work situations can create an exceedingly hostile environment. Both Title VII and the Missouri Human Rights Act prohibit workplace discrimination, including creating or allowing a hostile work environment. A co-worker, a supervisor, or even a non-employee like a vendor can perpetrate racial harassment. Consulting with a lawyer can provide the guidance and support needed to address these types of situations legally.

Illegal discrimination in the workplace can take many forms, from the use of racial slurs by a coworker to an adverse employment decision based on a person’s race. It’s essential to note that racial harassment is not limited to situations where the perpetrator is of a different race – harassment can be given by someone of the same race as the victim. For those who feel they have been subjected to racial harassment or discrimination, seeking legal counsel from a Kansas City harassment lawyer can ensure that their rights are upheld and any potential remedies are explored effectively.

Employment Policies, Practices, and Race Discrimination

Discrimination is not always an explicit act. Sometimes, policies or practices in the workplace can lead to national origin discrimination or discrimination against a particular race, even if unintentionally. A policy might seem neutral on the surface but may disproportionately impact members of a particular racial group.

Such a policy, if not justified by a significant business necessity, could be considered discriminatory under the law. This is often referred to as ‘disparate impact’ discrimination.

For example, a company policy that disqualifies candidates with criminal records may disproportionately exclude individuals of a particular race. Unless the company can demonstrate a compelling business need for the policy, this could constitute illegal discrimination under Title VII.

Moreover, the law demands that employers take steps to prevent and respond to racial harassment in the workplace. This includes establishing and enforcing anti-harassment policies, offering training, and conducting thorough investigations when a formal complaint is filed. The failure to adopt such remedial measures could expose an employer to liability.

In situations like these, a Kansas City racial harassment attorney can be invaluable. They can help by: 

  • Evaluating the Legality of Policies: An attorney can scrutinize workplace policies to determine if they inadvertently lead to racial discrimination.
  • Guidance on Compliance: They can advise employers on establishing practices and policies that comply with both state and federal laws.
  • Training: An attorney can provide or direct employers to appropriate training programs to prevent racial harassment.
  • Representing in Legal Proceedings: If a discrimination case arises, an attorney can represent employees, ensuring that their rights are protected and they get a fair hearing.

For anyone in Kansas City navigating the complexities of potential racial discrimination in the workplace, consulting with a Kansas City racial harassment lawyer can be a pivotal step towards achieving justice and ensuring compliance with the law.

A word cloud for racial harassment.

Racial Harassment in Educational Institutions

Title VI’s provisions extend to discrimination and harassment in the realm of education. Any educational institution receiving federal funds, which encompasses the vast majority of schools in the 21st century, is subject to Title VI, which prohibits discrimination or harassment based on race, color, or national origin. This means that racial harassment, such as racial slurs or racially offensive symbols, should not be tolerated in any educational institution, from elementary schools to universities.

Educational institutions bear the responsibility of ensuring a safe, non-hostile environment for all students, regardless of their race or national origin. This includes addressing complaints of racial harassment and implementing effective anti-harassment policies. For students or parents in Kansas City who feel their rights under Title VI have been violated, seeking guidance from a Kansas City racial harassment attorney is essential.

Educational institutions are expected to take immediate action to eliminate racial harassment, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects. This may involve disciplinary action against the perpetrator, counseling for the victim and the perpetrator, implementing measures to prevent retaliation, and even changes in school policies. An attorney can provide guidance on the best steps for institutions to take, assist victims in understanding and asserting their rights, and represent individuals in legal proceedings related to Title VI violations.

The Case of Private Schools and Nonprofits

Private schools, as well as non-profits, are not exempt from obligations under federal civil rights laws if they receive federal financial assistance. They are required to comply with Title VI, and thus racial harassment should not be tolerated. These institutions must enforce anti-harassment policies, provide training to staff and students, promptly investigate complaints of racial harassment, and take remedial measures.

However, if a private school or non-profit does not receive any form of federal financial assistance, they may not fall under the jurisdiction of Title VI. That said, they may still be subject to state laws, such as Missouri’s Human Rights Act, that prohibit racial harassment and discrimination.

The Intersection of Racial Harassment and the First Amendment

The First Amendment protects freedom of speech, but this freedom has its limitations, particularly when it infringes upon the rights of others. Although the First Amendment allows individuals to express their opinions, it does not give a free pass for racially charged speech that amounts to harassment and fosters a hostile environment.

In fact, courts have held that severe or pervasive harassing conduct, including the use of racial slurs or the display of racially offensive symbols, can infringe upon another person’s civil rights.

Therefore, while the First Amendment may protect offensive or distasteful speech in many instances, it does not shield racial harassment in the workplace, in educational institutions, or in the provision of public accommodations.

Understanding Key Terms

Racial Slurs

Racial slurs are derogatory expressions, words, or epithets targeting a person’s race, color, or national origin. These slurs are a common form of racial harassment, contributing to a hostile environment that is unlawful under federal civil rights laws.

Intentional Discrimination

Intentional discrimination, also known as disparate treatment, occurs when an individual is deliberately treated less favorably because of their race. This could range from not being hired or promoted to being fired because of one’s racial group.

Harassing Conduct

Harassing conduct refers to unwelcome behavior based on a person’s race, which could include racial jokes, racial slurs, or other offensive acts, such as the display of racially offensive symbols. If this conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile work or learning environment, it could amount to illegal discrimination.

Adverse Employment Decision

An adverse employment decision refers to a negative action taken against an employee based on their race, such as firing, demotion, or denial of promotion or benefits. It is a form of intentional discrimination.

Racially Offensive Symbols

Racially offensive symbols can include any insignia, images, or displays that degrade or demean individuals based on their race, color, or national origin. The use of such symbols can contribute to a hostile environment and may constitute racial harassment.

Filing a Formal Complaint and Initiating Legal Proceedings

When racial harassment occurs, it’s important for victims to know they have rights and resources available. An initial step is usually to file a formal complaint with the appropriate authority within the workplace or educational institution.

This generally involves providing a written account of the incidents, including specific details and any available evidence. The institution or employer is then responsible for promptly investigating the allegations. If the harassment continues, or if the employer or institution does not adequately address the complaint, victims may take their case to state or federal agencies.

In Missouri, complaints can be submitted to the Missouri Commission on Human Rights. At the federal level, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission handles employment-related cases, while the Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Education investigates complaints against educational institutions.

It’s crucial to remember that a complaint must typically be filed with these agencies before proceeding with a lawsuit. These agencies will investigate the allegations: a process that could lead to a settlement or other remedial measures. If they decide not to take action, or if the remedial measures are unsatisfactory, they will issue a “right to sue” letter, allowing the victim to bring their case to court.

When to File a Lawsuit and the Role of Legal Experts

Timing is crucial in legal matters. Victims generally have a limited time to file a complaint with the state or federal agency. Once they receive a “right to sue” letter from the agency, another time limit applies for filing a lawsuit.

Given the complexities of the legal process and the nuances of discrimination law, consulting with a legal expert early in the process can be beneficial. A qualified attorney can provide advice tailored to the specifics of the case, guide victims through the legal process, and represent them in negotiations or in court.

It’s vital to seek counsel from a professional who specializes in civil rights or employment law, as they will have an in-depth understanding of all the relevant legislation, including Title VI and Title VII and Missouri law, and how each of these can apply to specific racial harassment cases.

While racial harassment is a serious issue, individuals are not without recourse. Federal and state laws, backed by law enforcement agencies, offer robust protections, and with the help of qualified legal experts, victims can pursue justice.

A female employer speaking with a black male employee.

Understanding the Process of Filing a Harassment Complaint

Documenting the Harassment

The first step is to document each incident of racial harassment in detail. This includes noting dates, times, locations, what was said or done, who was involved, and the names of any witnesses. Preserve any physical or digital evidence, such as emails, text messages, or photos.

Reporting Within the Institution or Workplace

The victim should report the harassment to their employer or the institution where the harassment occurred. This is usually done through a manager, supervisor, or human resources department, or in an educational setting, to a school administrator or Title IX coordinator. Follow the procedures outlined in the organization’s anti-harassment policies, if available.

The only exception to this as a first step is if the harassment is violent and the victim’s physical safety is immediately threatened. In such a case, the correct first step is to contact the police. Once the police have dealt with a violent harasser and the victim’s safety is ensured, the victim can then make a report to the correct institutional authority as well as make a police report.

In some cases, a restraining order may even be necessary to protect a person’s safety. If you have any concerns, contact a lawyer as soon as possible after contacting the police to be sure of the right steps.

Filing a Formal Complaint

If the institution or employer doesn’t take appropriate action, or if the harassment continues, the victim can file a formal complaint with a state or federal agency.

In Missouri, this would be the Missouri Commission on Human Rights; at the federal level, it could be the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for workplace incidents or the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) for educational settings. These agencies will require a detailed account of the incidents and any evidence supporting the claims.

Investigation by the Agency

After receiving the complaint, the agency will conduct an investigation. This process can include interviews with the victim, the alleged harasser, and any witnesses, as well as a review of any supporting documentation or evidence.

Agency Decision

Based on the findings of the investigation, the agency will make a determination. If they find evidence of harassment, they may take enforcement action against the institution or employer.

This can involve requiring changes in policies and practices, training, or other remedial measures. If the agency doesn’t find sufficient evidence of harassment, or if they don’t take enforcement action for any other reason, they will typically issue a “right to sue” letter, giving the victim the right to file a lawsuit in court.

Legal Proceedings

If a lawsuit is filed, it will proceed through the stages of a civil court case, including discovery, negotiation, and possibly a trial. The victim may seek remedies such as compensatory damages for any harm they suffered, and in some cases, punitive damages.

It’s highly recommended to seek advice from a legal expert who specializes in civil rights or employment law at various stages in this process.

A qualified Kansas City racial harassment attorney can guide victims through these steps, represent them in interactions with agencies or in court, and advise them on the best course of action based on their specific situation.

Understanding Retaliation After a Harassment Complaint

Retaliation occurs when an employer or institution takes adverse action against an individual for engaging in a protected activity. In the context of racial harassment, protected activities include making a complaint about harassment, participating in an investigation or lawsuit related to harassment, or opposing harassment.

Retaliatory actions can take various forms, but under federal law, retaliation is prohibited by the same statutes that prohibit racial harassment and discrimination. If an individual faces retaliation after making a harassment complaint, it’s important to document all instances of retaliation, just as with instances of harassment.

If an individual believes they are experiencing retaliation, they should report it to the appropriate person or department within their institution or employer. This might be a supervisor, human resources professional, or in an educational setting, a school administrator, or a Title IX coordinator.

If the retaliation continues, the victim can file a complaint with a state or federal agency, just as with racial harassment. In Missouri, this would be the Missouri Commission on Human Rights, and at the federal level, it could be the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for workplace incidents, or the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) for educational settings.

As with harassment or discrimination, if the agency’s investigation reveals evidence of retaliation, they may take enforcement action against the institution or employer, which can involve requiring changes in policies and practices, training, or other remedial measures. If they don’t find sufficient evidence of retaliation, or if they don’t act for any reason, they will likely issue a “right to sue” letter, allowing the victim to file a lawsuit in court.

Navigating retaliation claims can be complex and stressful, which is why it’s recommended that individuals seek advice from a legal expert specializing in civil rights or employment law. A qualified racial harassment lawyer in Kansas City can guide victims through this process, represent them in interactions with agencies or in court, and advise them on the best course of action based on their specific situation.

Identifying Retaliation

Retaliation refers to any adverse action taken by an employer, educational institution, or any other entity receiving federal financial assistance against an individual because they engaged in a protected activity. These adverse actions could be implemented as a way to punish the individual or dissuade them from partaking in protected activities in the future.

In a workplace setting, retaliation might appear as:

  • Termination or job loss
  • Demotion or negative changes in job responsibilities
  • Decreased pay or hours
  • Negative performance evaluations
  • Creating a hostile work environment
  • Intimidation, threats, or bullying
  • Exclusion or social isolation

In an educational context, retaliation could involve:

  • Lowered grades or academic opportunities
  • Unfair disciplinary action
  • Exclusion from extracurricular activities
  • Creating a hostile educational environment
  • Intimidation, threats, or bullying
  • Ignoring or discounting claims of further harassment or discrimination

The key factor in identifying retaliation is establishing a link between the adverse action and the protected activity. This can be tricky and does require the help of a qualified legal professional, since those accused of retaliation will almost always claim their actions had nothing to do with the protected activity.

It’s important to note that retaliation is illegal under federal law even if the original complaint of harassment or discrimination isn’t proven. As long as the individual had a reasonable belief that the behavior they reported was unlawful, and their report was made in good faith, they are protected from retaliation.

The Role and Importance of a Racial Harassment Lawyer in a Harassment Case

Legal representation is highly beneficial when dealing with harassment cases due to the complexity of these issues and the need for knowledgeable guidance. Here are several reasons why employing a Kansas City racial harassment lawyer is advantageous in such situations:

  • Understanding Laws and Regulations: Legal experts specializing in civil rights or employment law have a deep understanding of federal and state laws related to harassment and discrimination. They can accurately interpret these laws and how they apply to a client’s specific circumstances.
  • Guidance Through the Complaint Process: Filing a harassment complaint involves several intricate steps, from documenting incidents to interacting with various institutions or authorities. An attorney can guide clients through this process, ensuring every necessary step is taken and no crucial elements are overlooked.
  • Legal Advocacy: A racial harassment lawyer can serve as an advocate, representing a client in interactions with employers, educational institutions, law enforcement agencies, or federal agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Office for Civil Rights. This representation can extend to court proceedings if a lawsuit is filed.
  • Evidence Gathering and Presentation: Legal experts can assist in gathering and presenting evidence in the most impactful manner, bolstering a client’s case. They can also ensure that all relevant evidence is considered during investigations.
  • Negotiation and Settlement: If a case reaches the point of negotiation or settlement discussions, an attorney can represent a client’s interests, ensuring they receive a fair resolution. This can involve compensation, reinstatement, policy changes, or other remedies.
  • Protection Against Retaliation: Retaliation is a significant concern for many individuals who file harassment complaints. A lawyer can help protect against such adverse actions and provide guidance if retaliation occurs.
  • Emotional Support: Dealing with harassment can be emotionally draining. Having a legal expert who understands the process and can provide objective advice can be a source of comfort and reassurance during a difficult time.

A Kansas City racial harassment lawyer’s role in a harassment case goes beyond legal advice. They become a crucial support system, helping individuals navigate through complex legal landscapes while standing up for their rights. The guidance and representation provided by a racial harassment attorney can significantly impact the outcome of a harassment case, enhancing the likelihood of a favorable resolution.

What Can You Do About Racial Harassment at Work?

When you suffer racial harassment, it is important to make sure that you let the harasser clearly know that their conduct is unwelcome. Also, make sure that you let your employer know of the situation (preferably in writing) and let them know how you want it addressed.

Read your employer’s harassment policy, and do your best to follow it as closely as possible. Also, make written notes about each instance of harassment, and talk to fellow employees or others who may be in a similar situation.

What You Will Get From Holman Schiavone, LLC

Understanding racial harassment, its implications, and the laws that protect against it is vital in safeguarding the rights of individuals and maintaining a respectful society. Federal and state laws, including those specific to Missouri, offer robust protections to ensure all individuals enjoy the right to a harassment-free environment, regardless of their race, color, or national origin.

Remember, it is not just the responsibility of institutions and organizations to prevent harassment; individuals also have the right to stand up against such offenses. When faced with racial harassment, knowing how to document incidents, report them correctly, and take necessary legal steps is crucial. If retaliation occurs, individuals must know they are protected and have recourse.

If you believe you’ve been a victim of racial harassment or discrimination, it’s crucial to seek legal counsel as soon as possible. A qualified legal expert can guide you through the intricacies of the process, from filing complaints to possible litigation. You don’t have to navigate these challenging times alone.

For individuals in Missouri, Holman Schiavone, LLC is ready to assist. Our team of experienced attorneys can provide the advice and representation you need to stand up for your rights. To discuss your situation and explore your options, call us today at 816-399-5149 for a free consultation. No one should have to endure racial harassment or discrimination. Let us help you.