Area of Law:
Indiana has both state and federal statutes to protect people in the workplace from unfair and illegal discrimination practices. With laws in place to help stop discrimination in its tracks, racial discrimination is a less pervasive problem now than it was in previous decades, but unfortunately the laws do not entirely prevent workplace racial discrimination from occurring. Therefore, it is important for people to remain as vigilant as they can with regard to reporting instances of discrimination and making sure that breaches of the Indiana state and federal civil rights laws are dealt with in a timely manner.
But what about retaliation? Many cases of discrimination go unreported because employees are afraid of their employers taking action against them by either firing or demoting them, cutting their pay, or threatening them outside the workplace. You can rest assured, however, because not only are all the aforementioned practices illegal, they are also very serious offenses that carry equally serious consequences. It is not worth it in the long run for a company to engage in retaliation practices as this sort of behavior will wind up hurting the company much more than if it were to just rectify the discriminatory problem.
Then there's the question of what do you do if you feel you have been the victim of racial discrimination or your employer has asked you to participate in policies or practices that you feel are illegal? If your company is large enough that you feel your HR department is sufficiently removed from the issue, you may want to try to discuss the matter with them to see if you can make any progress that way. Believe it or not, some discriminatory practices are unintentional and once the issue has been brought to the attention of management, the problem can be taken care of immediately.
If for some reason, however, you do not feel comfortable talking to your HR department, or if you have done so and things have not come to a satisfactory conclusion, then you can take the next step and file a formal complaint either at the state level with the Indiana Civil Rights Commission (ICRC) or at the federal level with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The ICRC will investigate a discrimination claim, and in most cases will refer the parties involved to the Alternative Dispute Resolution Unit. At this point, a mediator will try to open the lines of communication between the two parties in order to reach a resolution without having to go to court. In many cases, this process is successful, but in cases when it is not, the case may be referred to the EEOC for further investigation. If the EEOC finds that the complaining party has a strong enough case, he or she will be given the right to sue, and the case can move forward with a court date. Complaining parties should be advised, however, that the EEOC has a statute of limitations of 180 days between the occurrence of the incident in question and the last possible filing date. In other words, if your incident of alleged discrimination happened more than six months ago, the EEOC will not accept your complaint as valid.