Arkansas Labor Law and Racial Discrimination


Area of Law: 


Though there are many laws at both the state and federal levels governing how Arkansas employees are to be treated, racial discrimination cases still occur.  Racial discrimination harms companies by emphasizing skin color and ethnicity over quality of work and by creating unfair or hostile work environments for the employees.  In order to make Arkansas a more fair state, it is important to practice vigilance when it comes to reporting racial discrimination incidents.  Many cases of racial discrimination go unreported because the affected party feels intimidated or afraid of retaliation.  It should be noted, however, that retaliating against an employee for asserting his or her right to a fair workplace is both illegal and severely punishable.


Arkansas, like many other states, is an at-will employment state, meaning that an employee can quit a job at any time, for any reason, and an employer can hire or fire an employee at any time, for any reason.  While it may seem like this would open up avenues for blatant racial discrimination, this is not the case.  A person's civil rights are never to be violated under penalty of law, and this includes decisions being made about a person's employment status based on his or her race or skin color.  If an employee is fired for racially motivated reasons, or a company fails to hire a job applicant based on a racially motivated policy (either official or unofficial), these are sufficient grounds for getting legal advice and filing a formal complaint with either the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or another local authority.


Additionally, it is illegal for an employee to be asked to take on certain tasks in the workplace based on stereotypes of what certain races are "good" at.  For example, if an employee is asked to move to the accounting department because the manager thinks that people from that employee's country of origin are "good with numbers," this action is most certainly discriminatory and not allowed.  Even if racially motivated actions and comments don't directly result in job changes for an employee, they can lead to a hostile work environment where stereotyping and discrimination are seen as okay, and thus creating a very uncomfortable situation that is contrary to the law.


Many people fail to report discriminatory incidents because they convince themselves that the discrimination was "harmless" or that it won't happen again.  However, it is essential to address all discrimination incidents regardless of the outcome, and as soon as possible after they occur.  In cases where the complaint ends up going to court, the EEOC requires that the incident in question occur no longer than 180 days prior to the filing of the complaint.  This means that if you feel you have been discriminated against, you need to seek legal advice as soon as possible, and your lawyer will advise you as to whether or not you have a complaint that is likely to hold up in court.