When you’re at work, you’re there to do an honest job and make a living, but not everyone has the same intentions as you. Some people actively come to work with malice for their coworkers, and in some cases, these bigoted people are the very employers we work for. Discrimination in the workplace is the act of treating an employee unfavorably due to their membership in a protected class. Too many people live paycheck to paycheck; in these cases, simply quitting your job for a new one isn’t an option. If you’re a victim of discrimination at work, let’s review the steps you need to take to protect yourself and hold aggressors accountable.
Understandably, your first instinct may be to lash out or act emotionally in response to a discriminatory statement or action. However, regardless of whether your reaction is warranted, reacting out of contempt can hurt your future case against them and may even land you in hot water with your job. Of course, this isn’t necessarily fair, but the best thing you can do for yourself is to take note of what happened and physically remove yourself from the situation. The less you say, the less can be used against you in the future. Plus, it shouldn’t be your job to punish, educate, correct, or deal with a bigot anyway.
As soon as the incident occurs, your priority should be to record every detail as quickly and thoroughly as possible. No matter what course of action you decide to take, you can ensure someone will ask you questions about what occurred. Having the details on hand is much easier than recalling them.
Also, you should make it a point to keep digital and physical records of any correspondence between you and the aggressor. These records could be emails, texts, phone calls, voicemails, and more. This leaves little room for them to deny or twist words.
Your job likely has policies outlining how to file a discrimination complaint, whom to report to, and what the investigative process looks like. These policies should also address what types of harassment and discrimination are strictly prohibited. While discrimination against protected classes is illegal under antidiscrimination policies, someone treating you poorly because you support a particular sports team is not. One scenario is illegal under federal law, and the other is simply workplace bullying. Both situations are undoubtedly frustrating and wrong, but the complaint process and to whom you bring your complaint will differ entirely.
State and federal laws, as well as the protections they provide, vary. Some states offer more protection or have stricter antidiscrimination laws than at the federal level, or vice versa. You can call your state, county, or city office to gather more information. Upon receiving this information, you may decide not to take your case to court and pursue mediation instead. You may even find your place of employment isn’t fully abiding by state and government policy. The more you know, the better you can protect yourself.
When you’re ready to file an official complaint, look back on those notes and records you kept. In your complaint, you should state exactly what occurred and how you believe the offender discriminated against you. Whatever you write should be clear, concise, and focused on the topic at hand. For example, you may have had previous disputes or disagreements with the aggressor, but that doesn’t mean you should address that in your complaint. Only provide the information necessary, such as the who, what, when, where, why, and how.
If your employer, manager, or supervisor was not the aggressor in the incident, you can speak with them. They can act as the liaison between you and HR. In truth, if you trust them, you should tell them immediately. They can keep an eye on future interactions and even act as a witness. If you don’t feel like you can trust your employer—or your employer was the aggressor—you should go directly to HR and file the complaint. In the end, for HR to do something, you need to make officials aware of the situation.
Regardless of whether you choose mediation, leave the issue up to your employer, or take up your case with the EEOC, you should speak with a lawyer. They are there to provide you with all the information you need to protect yourself and ensure an incident like this doesn’t reoccur. This is especially true if you retaliated against the aggressor, the aggressor is your employer, or if punitive action did not occur. Additionally, if you file a complaint, you may have to review and sign certain documents, which you don’t want to do without the presence of a lawyer. If you do, you may accidentally sign your legal rights away.
When filing a complaint with the EEOC, you have plenty of options. You can find the closest office near you, mail a complaint, or file a complaint online. Whichever option you choose, remember you only have 300 days from the incident to file a discrimination complaint with the EEOC. You’ll then have to wait for an official EEOC investigator to conduct their inquiry, in which they will determine whether there is evidence of discriminatory action.
Regardless of whether your employer was the aggressor, you should always keep an eye out for retaliation after filing a complaint. While it certainly doesn’t always happen, an employer may seek reprisal for making them or the department “look bad.” If you suddenly get demoted, notice an increase in harsh criticism, or are excluded from meetings and other job opportunities, you may also be a victim of retaliation. If so, you should keep a record of these instances and make your lawyer aware of the developing situation.
Now that you’re aware of the steps to take if you’re a victim of discrimination at work, don’t wait to act. With ageism being one of the most common forms of discrimination in the workplace, the Law Firm of Tamara N Holder is dedicated to representing employees like you. Don’t let cruel jokes, poor treatment, discrimination, and harassment go unaddressed. Contact us today, and we’ll put you in contact with one of our committed and knowledgeable age discrimination lawyers so you can receive the legal counsel and representation you deserve.