Category: Race Discrimination

A California man is suing a well-known solar company over their alleged racial harassment and “white only” policies. According to reports, Teshawn Soloman began working for Vivint Solar in 2017 as a temporary employee. Shortly after being brought on board as a full-time worker, Soloman began to experience a hostile work environment. He reports that his “predominantly Caucasian co-workers and supervisors…consistently singled [him] out for discrimination and harassment.”

Specifically, Soloman reports being called the “n-word” by his white manager on a daily basis. The manager reported used the slur frequently and “tried to explain that he grew up with black people” to justify his conduct. Soloman also alleges that racially-charged tensions were exacerbated when the same manager handed him a piece of fruit while telling him that “monkeys like bananas.”

The racial discrimination complaint also alleges that the managerial staff at Vivint Solar did more than create a hostile work environment through the use of slurs and racially-derogatory comments. Soloman reports showing up one day and finding that management had built a cardboard clubhouse and labeled it as “whites only.” Soloman’s attorney described the clubhouse as a statement of “white pride.”

Vivint Solar, which is a nationwide company, has expressed deep concern for the behavior that is alleged to have occurred in its Sacramento office. The company released a statement in which the CEO expressed the company’s continued commitment to equality and its “zero-tolerance policy for racial discrimination and harassment in the workplace.”

Harassment vs. Discrimination: What’s the Difference?

Soloman’s lawsuit against Vivint Solar argues that he was the victim of both racial harassment and racial discrimination. How are harassment and discrimination different? Which behaviors should be classified as “discriminatory” and which should be classified as “harassment”?

Harassment

Harassment is a form of employment discrimination that is defined as “unwelcome conduct from an employer or coworkers based on an employee’s race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, disability, or protected classification.”

Harassing behavior generally falls into one of two categories: quid pro quo harassment and hostile work environment harassment.

Quid Pro Quo Harassment: Harassing behavior exists when a manager or supervisor offers to give an employee something in exchange for something that is satisfying. Quid pro quo harassment is typical in sexual harassment situations: Manager offers to give Employee a raise if she sleeps with him.

Hostile Work Environment Harassment: Harassing behavior exists when behavior within the workplace creates an environment that is difficult, uncomfortable, or harmful. Not all unwelcome conduct will create a hostile work environment. Conduct must be so pervasive and severe that it substantially alters the work environment to make it harmful and/or uncomfortable for the victim.In his lawsuit, Soloman is arguing that he is the victim of racial harassment because his supervisors created a hostile work environment through the use of slurs and racially-hostile “jokes.” Their conduct was consistent, crude, and carried out because of Soloman’s race.

Discrimination

Employers in California are prohibited from discriminating against their employees on the basis of certain protected characteristics (e.g., race, gender, age, disability, pregnancy). Discrimination can be loosely defined to mean being the victim of less favorable treatment because of a personal characteristic or trait.

Examples of discrimination can include:

  • Being passed over for a job for which you are qualified
  • Not receiving a raise to which you should be entitled
  • Getting paid less than other employees
  • Being excluded from work events, and
  • Being terminated for reporting a supervisor’s illicit conduct.

As long you can prove that unfavorable treatment is related to their protected characteristic, you may have grounds for a discrimination lawsuit.

What is the discriminatory conduct alleged in Soloman’s racial discrimination lawsuit? It’s illegal for employers to exclude employees from work activities because of their race. Erecting a “fort” with a sign reading “whites only” is a clear violation of anti-discrimination law. Soloman was explicitly targeted because he was a person of color and prevented from participating in workplace activities. It does not matter that the fort was made of cardboard or that its erection was a joke.

Filing a Racial Discrimination Lawsuit in California

Have you been the victim of racial discrimination or racial harassment in a California workplace? Have you suffered financial or emotional harm because of your employer’s illegal actions? Contact the San Jose discrimination attorneys at the Briski Law Firm for help.

We will review your case, determine which damages you may be entitled to recover, and help you hold your employer accountable for its actions. Call today to schedule a free case evaluation with our skilled legal team.