While many policies, laws, and regulations are in place to protect you as an employee, that doesn’t mean discrimination and illegal activities don’t happen in the workplace. However, there are times when employees are afraid to act, either because they’re afraid of retaliation or fear they’re being “too sensitive.” If you’re unsure whether it’s time to get a professional legal opinion, here are five signs that it’s time to talk to an employment attorney.
Wage theft is illegal and often occurs in the form of unpaid overtime, being paid less than the legal minimum wage, non-agreed upon deductions, or simply not playing an employee. Not being paid the appropriate amount or not being paid at all, even once, must be addressed immediately. A more significant issue may be at play if nothing is done to rectify the situation. You may be entitled to wage loss compensation if you are consistently underpaid.
Retaliation occurs when an employer demotes, harasses, punishes, or fires an employee for engaging in a legally protected action. For example, if you’re fired for taking sick leave or bringing an employer’s bad behavior to attention, this is illegal. Unfortunately, many whistleblowing laws have a short time frame, so if you believe you’ve been unjustly treated due to reporting criminal conduct, you’ll want to file a complaint as soon as possible. Ideally, you’ll want to go directly to the EEOC; however, you should always review your company’s overall reporting policies before acting.
Suppose you are being unjustly treated, demoted, ignored, or harassed because you are part of a protected class. In that case, it is in your best interest to contact a discrimination lawyer immediately. The protected classes are age, race, gender, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, veteran status, and pregnancy status. While outright discrimination has been mostly substituted for underhanded, subtle inequity, it is still discrimination, and you are entitled to pursue litigation.
Sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace are taken very seriously by the EEOC and the law. Inappropriate sexual comments or actions that make you uncomfortable should be reported. However, many people are afraid to report sexual misconduct due to a fear of not being believed. While this may, unfortunately, be the case for some, it is in your best interest to hire legal representation as soon as possible.
Ideally, if any of the above happens to you, you’ll first talk to your supervisor or the Human Resources department. If nothing is done about your report, you need to speak with an attorney, especially if similar complaints have been made in the past and nothing has been done about it. No one should feel unsafe at their place of employment.
These are just a few signs it’s time to talk to an attorney, and many more exist beyond this short list. As a rule, if you feel unsafe or suspect illegal activity is occurring at your job, it would be wise to speak to a legal professional. Many lawyers will provide you with a free consultation, so you can feel confident before you file an official complaint.