Boston, Holt & Durham, PLLC

Is reverse racism causing a hostile workplace environment?

Are you becoming increasingly uncomfortable at your place of work because of racial slurs against you? Everyone is born with different skin colors: Yours happens to be white.

A black co-worker has begun making fun of your “whiteness.” Given the times we live in, you are afraid this might turn into outright hostility. Even now, you find the joking offensive and you no longer enjoy coming to work.

Protecting all races

This may be the first time you have ever been the subject of jokes or derisive remarks because you are Caucasian, and it likely comes as a shock. There is probably no harm, no foul if someone makes a single, off-hand joke about whiteness. However, Caucasians as well as people of any other race are protected from discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Repeated, uncalled-for comments about a person’s race can become the subject of a lawsuit.

Generalized statements

Let us say that you and a couple of your colleagues who are also white are working on a certain project together. If your black co-worker makes a statement that contains the phrase “you people,” it indicates that this person is using a predefined set of traits to separate people into groups. Does he use that term when he speaks to black co-workers, or Latin-American co-workers, or is this phraseology reserved for white employees only?

What you can do

Keep a log. Document any remark that is made about your whiteness, even if it appears to be a simple joke. Include the date and time and who else might have heard the comment. It would also be a good idea for you to review the information in your company handbook, especially anything that addresses the subject of discrimination. You should report such incidents to your supervisor. If you believe that in reporting reverse racial discrimination you might become a target for retaliation, remember that you can reach out to an attorney experienced with employment law. You deserve a work environment that is free from discrimination of any kind, and an advocate who is on your side can help put an end to the remarks that are disrupting your work day.


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