Is it racial discrimination if every time that I walk by or walk into the break room my co-workers switch from English to Spanish?

UPDATED: Sep 13, 2011

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Is it racial discrimination if every time that I walk by or walk into the break room my co-workers switch from English to Spanish?

I’m a Caucasian female.

Asked on September 13, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

That may be racial discrimination. Racial discrimination or harassment at work is any (1) negative employment action, based on a protected category (e.g. race, sex, religion, age over 40, disability); or (2) behavior which creates a hostile or uncomfortable workplace for someone based on those protected categories. Ostentatiously switching from English to a language which you do not understand when you enter the room could possibly be a form of racial harassment, assuming that you and the other employees are of different races (i.e. if you and they are of the same race, but you happen to not speak Spanish, that is not race-based discrimination). If you feel this may be discrimination, you could either speak to management or human resources about the situation, or consult with a private employment attorney about your situation. Good luck.

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