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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Youth at Work

Select any of the questions below to get quick answers to some common questions about race and color discrimination.

  1. What are some examples of racial harassment?
  2. Is it illegal to discriminate against or harass someone of your own race?
  3. Is it illegal to be discriminated against or harassed because of your race and another prohibited reason, such as color or sex?
  4. Can my employer ask about my race?
  5. Am I protected from race and color discrimination if I am bi-racial or multi-racial?
  6. Are White employees protected from race discrimination even though they are not a minority?
  7. Is it illegal for my employer to discriminate against or harass me if I have a friend or parent of a different race?
  8. Is it illegal for someone to discriminate against or harass certain members of a race, but not others?
  9. Can my employer assign me to work with customers of my own race?
  10. Can my employer base any job decisions on my race or color?
  11. Can my employer punish me for reporting what I think is race discrimination?

What are some examples of racial harassment?

Racial harassment involves unwelcome and racially offensive conduct in the workplace. The harasser can be your supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who does not work for your employer, such as a client or customer. Racial harassment can include racial slurs, jokes, or comments; racially offensive cartoons, drawings, symbols, or gestures; and other verbal or physical conduct based on an individual's race.


Is it illegal to discriminate against or harass someone of your own race?

Yes. It is illegal for people to discriminate against people of their own racial group on the basis of race or color. For example, a light-skinned Black male may not harass another Black male who has darker skin.


Is it illegal to be discriminated against or harassed because of your race and another prohibited reason, such as color or sex?

Yes. It is illegal to be discriminated against because of  your race and another protected trait. For example, it is illegal for a restaurant to refuse to hire a dark-skinned Black woman because of her race (Black) and color (dark skin tone). It also is illegal to be discriminated against or harassed because of your race and some other protected trait, like your sex or national origin. For example, it is illegal for a grocery store to refuse to hire Native American women, even if the store hires women of other races and Native American men.


Can my employer ask about my race?

Federal law does not prohibit employers from asking you about your race. However, because such questions may indicate a possible intent to discriminate based on race, we recommend that employers ensure that they ask about race only for a lawful purpose. For example, your employer may need information about your race for affirmative action purposes or to comply with government laws that require the reporting of race information.


Am I protected from race and color discrimination if I am bi-racial or multi-racial?

Yes. Bi-racial and multi-racial job applicants and employees are protected from unfair treatment or harassment at work on the basis of their race and color.


Are White employees protected from race discrimination even though they are not a minority?

Yes. You are protected from different treatment at work on the basis of your race, whether you are White, Black, or some other race.


Is it illegal for my employer to discriminate against or harass me if I have a friend or parent of a different race?

Yes. The laws enforced by EEOC prohibit an employer from treating you differently or harassing you because your friends, parents, or other people you associate with are of a particular race or color. You also may not be discriminated against or harassed because you belong to a race-based organization or attend schools or places of worship associated with a particular racial group.


Is it illegal for someone to discriminate against or harass certain members of a race, but not others?

Yes. It is illegal for someone to discriminate against or harass a sub-set of a particular race. For example, a manager may not refuse to promote Asian males, even if he promotes other males and Asian females.


Can my employer assign me to work with customers of my own race?

No. Your employer may not ask you to work only with customers of your own race or assign you to a particular territory based on your race, even if your employer believes the assignment may benefit you. For example, an employer cannot assign a Black employee to work in a predominantly Black neighborhood because of his or her race, even if the employer believes the employee will sell more products, and thus, earn more money.


Can my employer base any job decisions on my race or color?

No. Your employer should not base any job decision on your race or color. This includes decisions about hiring, firing, promotions, training, wages, and benefits.


Can my employer punish me for reporting what I think is race discrimination?

No. It is illegal for your employer to punish you, treat you differently, or harass you because you report discrimination to someone at your company, to EEOC, or to your parents, your teacher, or another trusted adult. This is true even if it turns out that the conduct you complained about is not found to be discrimination. We refer to this as your right to be protected from retaliation.