My boss displays a Confederate flag at work and I am African-American and feel uncomfortable. Is that racial discrimination or harassment?

I’m sorry to hear that you feel uncomfortable at work because of the Confederate flag. As you probably know, racial discrimination and harassment in the workplace are illegal under both federal and state law. If your boss or anyone else at work discriminates against you or harasses you because of your race, that conduct is illegal and you can pursue damages.

However, it’s unclear whether or not simply displaying a Confederate flag, by itself, would be considered discrimination or harassment. Several courts have weighed in on the issue, and most of them have found that displaying a Confederate flag, when taken alone, is not harassment or discrimination.

If your boss displays a Confederate flag in the workplace, he or she may have taken other actions that, when combined with the Confederate flag, could be considered discrimination or harassment. Normally, in order to be illegal, the harassment must rise to such a level that they create a hostile work environment. Displaying a flag, making offhand comments or simple teasing probably do not create a hostile environment, while making racist and offensive comments regularly would create a hostile work environment.

If possible, you should consider talking your concerns over with your boss. He or she may not be aware that the flag makes you feel uncomfortable, and it could be taken down and the issue over. If it persists, or if additional behavior occurs, you should consider talking to an attorney. An attorney can help you pursue damages and/or can help make the behavior stop.

If you are in the Los Angeles area, call me, Conal Doyle, Los Angeles employment law attorney at 310-385-0567. I have experience in helping employees who have been discriminated against or harassed pursue a claim against their employers. Call today to learn more or to schedule a free consultation.