Workplace Discrimination: Not Just About Race Anymore

Claire Gordon
Discrimination cases
Discrimination cases

In the last year alone, a court awarded a victim of sexual harassment a record payout ($95 million), the Supreme Court dismissed the biggest civil rights class action suit in U.S. history, and people called discrimination on everything from HIV status to a peanut allergy. The number of workplace discrimination claims concerning race and ethnicity has been increasing along a straight line for the last decade, and total claims grazed a record 100,000 in 2010, the last year for which data is available.

As we observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day, that's sobering to consider.

"We haven't achieved anything like the racially just and equal society that MLK envisioned," says Ralph Richard Banks, a professor at Stanford Law School who specializes in African American issues. But that increase might also be due to more willingness to report incidents, as opposed to shrugging off bigotry, as well more awareness of what amounts to discrimination.