The longer you’ve been in the workforce, the more likely you are to notice problems and deal with hurdles. Most of the time, you can handle them on your own. When these problems make you feel unsafe, afraid, or discriminated against, you’re likely dealing with systemic issues that can’t be solved by one person or with one conversation. At this point, you need to consider consulting an employment lawyer.
This can feel like a big, intimidating step—some people worry it’s too big of a step, or maybe their situation doesn’t warrant the help of an employment lawyer. At the Law Firm of Tamara N Holder, we’re here to help. Let’s take a look at some signs that can tell you when it’s time to seek the help of an employment attorney.
Wrongful termination occurs when an employer fires you from your job for an illegal reason or the termination breaches the terms of employment. An employer can only legally fire you if they’re downsizing, no longer need your position, or you’ve failed to meet the terms of employment in some way. For example, your employer can fire you if you are consistently late to work. However, it is illegal to fire you for discriminatory reasons, such as not approving of your sexual orientation or religion.
Retaliation occurs when an employer penalizes you for actions that you are legally allowed to engage in, known as protected acts. Protected acts include but are not limited to whistleblowing, requesting accommodations or time off, or reporting sexual harassment. An employer may wrongfully terminate you as a form of retaliation, but other forms of retaliation include demotion, pay docking, or excluding you from warranted promotions.
When an employer or coworker harasses or discriminates against you so severely that it impacts your job, you may be in a hostile work environment. For a judge to deem a workplace as hostile, the behavior must be pervasive, discriminatory, abusive, and prevent you from doing your job. However, before you can file a hostile work environment claim, you must give your employer or the company a chance to investigate or take action. If they fail to do so, then you can bring your case to court.
Sexual harassment can be hard to define because it’s an umbrella term that encompasses a myriad of actions. Essentially, sexual harassment includes any inappropriate, unwelcome, and unwanted sexual act, behavior, or remark. However, sexual harassment is not always the outright verbal or physical assault you might think of. Different types of sexual harassment can occur in the workplace, such as quid pro quo sexual harassment or third-party sexual harassment.
If an employer requests sexual favors from you in return for a workplace reward, then that is quid pro quo harassment. When someone unrelated to the company sexually harasses an employee, this is third-party sexual harassment.
Ageism is the act of discriminating against someone due to their age. However, in terms of employment law, a discriminatory act isn’t necessarily ageist unless the person is 40 or older. Some states have laws that protect younger employees, but this isn't so at the federal level. Here’s an example of ageism under the eyes of federal law. An employee who has worked for a company for 10 years recently turns 45. If an employer were to ask them if they want to retire, hint at hiring “fresh blood,” or start stripping them of responsibilities, we can consider this ageism.
Pay discrimination and wage violations are both illegal acts that can affect your income, but they’re two very different things. Wage violations can be accidental or purposeful and occur when an employer pays you incorrectly. Some examples of this may be the failure to receive agreed-upon wages, miscalculations of overtime pay, illegal wage deductions, or illegal tip pooling. Even if you believe a wage violation is accidental, you should still contact an employment lawyer to make sure you’re protected.
Conversely, pay discrimination is always purposeful and is the act of any employer paying an employee differently for discriminatory reasons. The most prevailing example is gender-based pay discrimination, specifically geared toward women—this is often referred to as the pay gap. According to federal law, an employer must pay employees the same amount if their jobs are substantially equal, meaning the skills, effort, and responsibilities are similar.
Modern-day racism in the workplace has gone beyond the physical violence and hurling of racial epithets. This isn’t to say these things do not occur, but most racist employers or coworkers are better at hiding their bigotry. Today’s workplace racism often looks like subtle jabs or comments written off as jokes, but it can also appear as policies that affect or favor one race over others. For example, if an employer has a policy that strictly prohibits natural or protective hairstyles such as afros, headwraps, or locs, this would specifically put Black people at a disadvantage.
Gender and sexual orientation are two terms often brought up together during conversations about LGBTQIA+ rights and legislation. However, these terms mean two different things. Gender discrimination, also known as sex-based discrimination, is the act of treating someone differently or poorly based on their birth, perceived, or chosen gender. Sexual orientation discrimination includes unfair behaviors and actions toward a person based on their actual or perceived sexual preferences.
For example, if an employer or coworker refuses to use the preferred pronouns for a transgender employee, that is gender discrimination. If an employer doesn’t allow an employee to keep a picture of their same-sex partner on their desk but allows a heterosexual employee to do so, that is sexual orientation discrimination.
If you’ve read these situations and scenarios but still can’t tell when it’s time to seek an employment attorney, ask yourself this: Do I feel afraid or intimated to attend my job? If the answer is yes, then contact the Law Firm of Tamara N Holder today. We’ll put you in contact with one of our discrimination lawyers, that will help you get the legal representation and compensation you deserve. We believe everyone has a right to feel safe and valued at their job.