Racial Discrimination: Labor Laws in Alabama


Area of Law: 

Most states use a network of both federal and state laws in order to combat racial discrimination in the workplace.  The state laws are used as supplements to support the federal laws in cases where state-specific issues are being dealt with. The state of Alabama, however, relies heavily on federal laws for racial discrimination rules, and most Alabama discrimination cases will have to be filed on a federal level in order for them to move forward.  In Alabama, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) handles the majority of racial discrimination cases, but there are certain procedures and rules that must be followed for a racial discrimination case to be valid.


First, it is important to understand who is protected under racial discrimination labor laws and under what circumstances. Employment discrimination laws obviously protect the employees of a company, but former employees and job applicants fall into the protected category as well.  This means that if you are applying for a job and you feel that decisions were made that resulted in discrimination against you because of your skin color or national origin, you should obtain legal advice as to whether or not you should make a complaint to the EEOC.


When filing a complaint with the EEOC, certain rules and regulations need to be followed.  First of all, your complaint has to be filed in a timely fashion.  You cannot complain about a manager who allegedly discriminated against you twenty years ago.  With the EEOC, you have 180 days from the time the discriminatory incident occurred until the statute of limitations expires, and you can no longer file a valid complaint. If your case is one in which several discriminatory incidents occurred over a period of time, and perhaps you were not completely sure it was discrimination until the happening of one final incident, you can start counting your 180 days from the date of the most recent occurrence.


In most cases, your legal team will be required to prove that your employer acted with intent to discriminate against you.  This can be done in a number of ways.  If you were passed over for a higher position and can show that the person who got the promotion is less qualified than you that can go a long way towards proving your case.  Additionally, comments that are made in the workplace can be used as evidence of a hostile work environment, which is also a violation.  There is also disparate impact discrimination, in which an employer operates under a policy that does not appear to be racially discriminatory on the surface but may have a discriminatory side effect.  The employer may or may not be aware that the policy is discriminating. If such a case cannot be sorted out internally within the company, then you may have to take legal action in order to get the policy changed.