A California employee who is filing a workplace racial discrimination lawsuit may do so under a federal statute commonly referred to as Section 1981 or under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is important to understand the difference between the two. For example, to file a claim under Title VII, it is necessary to first go through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Once administrative remedies through the EEOC have been exhausted, a lawsuit can be filed. Under Section 1981, it is not necessary to file a claim with the EEOC first.
The statute of limitations under Section 1981 is also longer. A person has four years to file a lawsuit under Section 1981 while under Title VII, a person has up to 300 days to file with the EEOC.
However, Section 1981 only deals with intentional discrimination while Title VII deals with both intentional and disparate impact discrimination. Disparate impact discrimination refers to discrimination that may not be intentional but which has the effect of excluding a protected group. Furthermore, Section 1981 only protects against racial discrimination while Title VII deals with a number of protected classes. Finally, Title VII caps punitive and compensatory damages at $300,000 while there is no cap on these types of damages under Section 1981.
A person who is dealing with workplace discrimination on the basis of race may want to talk to an attorney about the best steps to take. The person may first try going through human resources at work. If HR does not respond in an appropriate manner, an attorney may help a person decide whether it would be better to pursue the issue under Section 1981 or Title VII.