Area of Law:
Mississippi is an at-will employment state. This means that both employers and employees can either enter into a work contract or terminate a work contract at any time and for any reason. Employers do not even need to give a reason for terminating an employee, and while this may seem like an open door for all kinds of discriminatory practices, federal law strictly protects employees from all forms of discrimination, including discrimination on the basis of race, skin color, ethnicity, and national origin. Most employers are willing to give their employees a valid reason for why they are being fired; however, if you have been fired without being given a reason and are suspicious that your termination may have been racially motivated, you may want to consider filing a discrimination claim.
Mississippi is unusual in that it does not provide anti-discrimination statutes at the state level aside from those that protect public employees. This means that there is no state agency in Mississippi to handle racial discrimination claims. However, this does not mean that there are no avenues of recourse available to you if you feel you have been the victim of workplace discrimination. As in any state, in Mississippi you can file a discrimination claim with the federally-run Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). However, there are certain requirements that must be met in order for the EEOC to be able to handle your claim. The most important requirement pertains to the strict statute of limitation within which racial discrimination claims must be filed. If you were discriminated against in the past, it is not possible to come forward several years later and file a complaint. With the EEOC, your complaint must be filed within 180 days from the date of the alleged discriminatory incident. If you do not file within this time frame, your claim may be dismissed and you might find that you are not allowed to move forward with your case at all.
Many cases of racial discrimination go unreported, and there are several reasons that explain why this so, but the most common reason is fear of intimidation or retaliation. The EEOC takes instances of retaliation very seriously because it is also illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for defending his or her civil rights. If you report your employer for an alleged incident of racial discrimination, and as a result, you are either fired, disciplined, or have your pay docked, these offenses are regarded as being just as unlawful as the initial act of discrimination, and they can be added to your complaint.
Other employees may fail to report racial discrimination because they fear a lengthy and expensive court battle; however, not all EEOC complaints end up in court. In fact, one of the jobs of the EEOC is to try to resolve racial discrimination claims via mediation so as to keep as many cases out of court as possible. This means that you may be able to reach a settlement with your employer without even having to hire an attorney, but of course having an attorney on your side is always beneficial when dealing with legal matters.