Title VII and Section 1981 are federal statutes that contain protections against employment discrimintion on the basis of race and national origin. Race and national origin discriminaion also violate the Rhode Island Fair Employment Practices Act and the Rhode Island Civil Rights Act.
Discrimination & Harassment Prohibited by Title VII
Title VII prohibits employers from subjecting employees to adverse employment actions on the basis of race and national origin. Examples of adverse employment actions include constructive discharge, termination, refusal to hire, discrimination or harassment, and exposure to a hostile work environment. Employers are further prohibited under Title VII from taking part in retaliatory practices, should an employee oppose employment practices made unlawful by Title VII or participate in any way in a Title VII proceeding.
Title VII applies to employers who have at least fifteen (15) employees working each day for the twenty (20) weeks preceding the filing of the civil claim. Title VII applies to all private employers, state and local governments, and educational institutions.
In order to bring a civil claim under Title VII, an individual must first file charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Plaintiffs successful in bringing suit under Title VII may be entitled to back pay, reinstatement or front pay, compensatory damages, and attorneys’ fees. In cases where the employer acted intentionally, with malice, or with reckless disregard, a successful plaintiff may also be awarded punitive damages. Under Title VII, both compensatory and punitive damages are statutorily capped based on the number of individuals employed by the employer.
Discrimination Prohibited by Section 1981 & Rhode Island Civil Rights Act
Section 1981 prohibits employers from interfering with the employee’s right to make and enforce contracts on the basis of race. Federal case law has interpreted Section 1981 as prohibiting employers from taking disparate action against an employee, solely on the basis of race. A parallel state statute in Rhode Island is the Rhode Island Civil Rights Act (“RICRA”).
Unlike Title VII, Section 1981 and the RICRA apply to all employers, regardless of the number of employees the employer has. Further, both federal and state courts have jurisdiction over Section 1981 claims, and there is charge of discrimination with either the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights before filing a civil lawsuit.
Section 1981 and RICRA plaintiffs may be entitled to back pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, discretionary attorneys’ fees, and injunctive relief.
Rhode Island Fair Employment Practices Act
Race and national origin discrimination also violates Rhode Island state law. The Rhode Island Fair Employment Practices Act (“FEPA”), R.I.G.L., §28-5-1 et seq., is generally administered by the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights (“RICHR”). The FEPA applies to all individuals, and, in part, makes it unlawful for an employer to subject an employee to an adverse employment action on the basis of, among many other things, race and national origin. Examples of adverse employment actions include constructive discharge, termination, refusal to hire, demotion, discrimination or harassment, and exposure to a hostile work environment. The FEPA also contains a provision making it unlawful to retaliate against employees who oppose discriminatory behavior or participate in any sort of proceeding relating to a complaint of discrimination.
In order to bring a civil claim under the FEPA, an injured employee must first exhaust the administrative remedies by filing a charge of discrimination with the RICHR. From the date of the adverse action, employees have one (1) year to file at the RICHR. Once the RICHR has progressed through its investigation, and issued a finding, the employee may file a lawsuit in state court or federal court, if the charge was co-filed with the EEOC.
If you or someone you know believe you have been discriminated against due to race or national origin, please contact us to discuss your matter.