Groups » 5 Essential Tips to Help You Deal with Discrimination at the Workplace

Acts of employment discrimination and harassment are illegal and punishable in the United States, as they can deter a person’s performance at work and demoralize him/her. Discrimination against an employee or applicant may occur in the form of retaliation, refusal to hire, denial to promote, termination, lesser pay than peers, or even harassment.

In America, strict employment discrimination laws aim to prevent discrimination based on race, sex, religion, national origin, physical disability, and age of the employee or applicant by employers. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 plays a significant role in protecting employees against discrimination by employers/coworkers.

In many cases, the victims of employment discrimination aren’t even aware that they are being wrongly treated. Such situations fall under the category of indirect discrimination, which happens when a workplace policy or practice may appear to treat all workers the same way, but it actually favors certain employee(s) over others.

If you feel that you are being discriminated against or harassed by your employer or coworkers, then you should take necessary measures to protect yourself.

Here are a few tips that can help you if you have been discriminated at work.

1. Speak to your Employer

Reporting the inappropriate or derogatory behavior at the workplace to your superior or HR personnel should be the first step for anyone who has experienced discrimination. You should also speak to your employer about specific incidences, so that he/she is aware that you are being discriminated against or harassed. You need to make it clear that the misconduct and harassment is unacceptable and unwelcome, and that you will take action against the employer.

Many a time, illegal acts of discrimination go unnoticed because the victim didn’t raise the issue with the company’s senior management. Employers may hesitate to readily accept the accusations of discrimination or harassment, and you may have to opt for legal recourse to resolve the matter.

2. Review the Company’s Anti-Discrimination Policy

Once you have spoken to your employer or an HR representative, you need to decide on proceeding with the complaint. You may either file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or directly file a lawsuit against the company.

But, before you opt for either of the two options, you need to first check the company’s anti-discrimination policy. Companies may have incorporated certain clauses in the policy, stating that they will not act in discriminatory ways. Such details can strengthen your case as you can challenge these statements in court (if you plan to file a lawsuit).

Additionally, you need to prepare a written report that mentions all possible details of the incident(s) of discrimination or harassment. After this, the HR personnel needs to conduct a thorough investigation into your allegations and take disciplinary or corrective actions against the offender(s). Employers are required to give prompt consideration to all reports of discrimination and harassment.

3. Record the Instances of Discrimination

Along with the official procedures, you should also keep a record of all the incidents of discrimination or harassment that you have faced. This information is extremely helpful when the internal investigating team or the EEOC team examines the truth of the matter. Further, if you file a discrimination lawsuit in court, the recorded details can be submitted as evidence.

You need to be truthful about the details and make sure that you include the date, approximate time, location, people involved, witnesses, and parts of the improper conduct/speech that you remember.

In the United States, the federal and state laws are helpful in protecting employees in most cases, but the courts require strong evidence to rule in the employees’ favor. An experienced commercial litigation Albany lawyer advises, “While each case is different, the goal of the law is to put the victim of discrimination in the same position that he or she would have been if the discrimination had never occurred.”

4.Inform the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Whether or not an internal team is appointed to investigate your discrimination claim, you can contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for help. EEOC is responsible for ensuring that businesses comply with federal and state anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws.

At the EEOC, you need to file a formal complaint against your employer, and only then will you be permitted to file a lawsuit. You need to follow strict timelines that are set by EEOC, and many have to file the claim within 180 days of the incident(s).

You need to have a thorough understanding of the state laws that apply to employment discrimination claims, as several states also expect the employee to file an administrative complaint with the state’s fair employment practices agency before filing a lawsuit.

With multiple laws and regulations that apply to an employment discrimination claim, it can be challenging to manage the procedures, especially if you are not represented by legal counsel.

5. Hire a Lawyer to File a Lawsuit

If you are planning to file a lawsuit against your employer, gathering evidence for a lawsuit is one of the most crucial aspects to prove the authenticity of your discrimination claim in court.

Hiring an employment lawyer can be a great way to manage this aspect in a strategic manner. Your attorney can guide you in the best way possible and provide his/her valuable professional skills to your case.

Your attorney can also help you with subpoenaing key documents from the employer, and conducting witness depositions that need to be submitted in court as part of the discovery phase of your lawsuit. Providing relevant evidence to support your argument can add credibility to your claim and increase the chances of winning in court.

Employment discrimination often happens in organizations because people make unfair assumptions about people with peculiar personality characteristics. They are responsible for complying with the law, but it is only you who can ensure that your personal rights are protected. Most businesses profess about practicing meritocracy when hiring people, but some employers fail to follow this approach. Favoritism and bias towards other employees can negatively impact the discriminated worker’s professional life, as well as his/her psyche. Taking serious actions against such behavior is not only necessary for the victim, but also for the rest of the staff.

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