Are You a Legal Professional?

Race Discrimination

Although many would hope that race discrimination remains a thing of the past, the unfortunate reality is that many still face some discrimination based on their race or national heritage. Employers that practice race discrimination put themselves at risk for heavy fines if any of their employees decide to sue. Many states make it even easier for employees to file complaints against their employers through the special state agency designed to manage such claims. This section contains useful information about bringing a suit or raising a complaint based in racial discrimination, including what kinds of practices might be discriminatory, and the procedure for a typical complaint process.

Race Discrimination: Applicable Laws

Many laws have been passed in an attempt to put an end to racial discrimination. In addition to federal laws there are many state and local civil rights laws that may mirror federal legislation. Even municipalities have introduced their own civil rights laws. The most influential federal laws relating to racial discrimination include:

  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964 - Prohibits racial discrimination in employment.
  • The Equal Credit Opportunity Act - Prohibits creditors from racial discrimination against credit applicants.
  • U.S. Code Title 42, Chapter 21 - Prohibits racial discrimination in education, employment, access to businesses and buildings, federal services, and more.
  • The Fair Housing Act - Prohibits racial discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing.
  • The Voting Rights Act of 1965 - Prohibits racial discrimination in voting practices.
  • The Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act - Prohibits racial discrimination in relief operations.

Race Discrimination: U.S. Supreme Court Cases

Many Supreme Court cases have addressed issues of racial discrimination. The nature of a particular incidence of racial discrimination may deeply impact which cases are most relevant, however, there are some cases that have been important in the development of civil rights laws and their enforcement. Some landmark Supreme Court cases involving racial discrimination laws include:

  • Korematsu v. U.S. - Laws setting curfews and requiring the relocation of most Japanese-Americans from California was subject to rigid scrutiny due to the curtailment of the civil rights of a single racial group, but the Supreme Court found that public necessity rather than racial antagonism was the motivation and the laws were upheld.
  • Shelley v. Kramer - Racially restrictive covenants in property deeds (forbidding the transfer of the property to minorities) were unenforceable.
  • Brown v. Board of Education - Racial segregation in public schools is found to be unconstitutional.
  • Bailey v. Patterson - Interstate and intrastate transportation facilities may not racially segregate.
  • Loving v. Virginia - State laws prohibiting inter-racial marriage are unconstitutional.
  • Jones v. Mayer Co. - Federal law bars all racial discrimination in sale or rental of property.
  • Lau v. Nichols - Failure to provide English language instruction to students of Chinese ancestry amounted to unlawful discrimination.
  • University of California Regents v. Bakke - A public university may consider race as a factor in admissions decisions.
  • Batson v. Kentucky - A trial of an African-American defendant where members of his race have been purposefully excluded from his jury was denied equal protection.
  • Grutter v. Bollinger - A law school's limited "affirmative action" use of race in admissions is constitutional.
Learn About Race Discrimination