John A. Klassen, PA Minnesota Employment Law Attorney
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Race discrimination is not the same as color discrimination

Minnesota workers may already know that it is against the law to discriminate in the workplace based on a person's race or color. However, it is important to understand that while there is some overlap in these two protected categories, they are not the same.

Race discrimination can take a number of forms. For example, it could take the form of discrimination based on stereotypes or an assumption about a person's abilities or work ethic based on their race. It can also take the form of discrimination based on a person's cultural practices or characteristics, such as the way the worker dresses, that are connected to the worker's race but do not materially affect the worker's ability to do his or her job. Race discrimination can occur even though not all people of the same race have the exact same physical characteristics.

Color discrimination, on the other hand, can take place between workers of either the same race and ethnicity or of different races or ethnicities. Courts define color as meaning the pigmentation, complexion or shade of a person's skin. Therefore, discrimination based on a worker's color is based on how light or dark a person's skin is or other color characteristics of a person's skin. This could even include Caucasians.

As is recognized in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employment discrimination based on a worker's race and discrimination based on a worker's color are two different things, but neither one should ever be tolerated. By educating themselves about the different types of workplace discrimination prohibited by Title VII, workers can stand up to discrimination in the workplace, including taking legal action if appropriate.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Facts About Race/Color Discrimination," Accessed Oct. 29, 2016

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