Columbia Janitor Sues Over Racial Discrimination

A janitor at Columbia University is suing the institution for racial discrimination, alleging that administrators unfairly treat him and other black employees on account of their skin color. Oumar Coulibay, who started working at a residential complex in 2008, claims that in addition to experiencing job-related setbacks, he has also suffered significant health problems resulting from the stressful experience of discrimination.

Some of the experiences Coulibay refers to in his lawsuit seem to have been drawn from decades ago: certain parking spots, water coolers and even certain locations in the building were allegedly restricted to white employees. He also alleges discriminatory practices in promotions and bonuses, and claims the use of racial slurs and intimidation has been common for years. His superiors have ignored previous complaints regarding the use of slurs and racially loaded language, according to Coulibay.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, discrimination on the basis of race is expressly outlawed in the U.S. A number of practices are specifically outlined as being covered by the law, including those related to hiring, promoting, disciplining and firing employees. Any differences in pay, benefits or opportunities offered to employees also cannot differ on the basis of race. Some of these situations can be complicated by the fact that it’s often hard to prove that discrimination has taken place without the specific admission of the employer.

Often, discrimination can be subtle and may not be easily detected by anyone not likely to be watching for it. However, individuals who may experience subtle and not-so-subtle discrimination in daily life — many minority groups certainly qualify — may have a more acute sense of when discrimination is taking place.

No one should have to experience discrimination in the workplace, so consult a dedicated New York City labor law attorney with the Derek T. Smith Law Group.

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