Discrimination in the workplace can take many forms, from harassment due to age, gender, and religion, to wrongful termination. A number of federal, state, and local laws protect employees from being victimized by workplace discrimination, so if you feel that you have been a victim of workplace bias, you should know that there are things you can do to put a stop to it.
In this article, we will go over the steps you can take if you believe you have been a victim of discrimination in the workplace.
How to Identify Workplace Discrimination?
Identifying discrimination in the workplace can sometimes be tricky, as it can often be a thing that you may feel before you can pinpoint it, and more time may pass before you’re able to properly document and prove it. Bad behavior in the workplace can often be written off as joking, harmless or unintended, and although in some cases it can be, more often than not, it isn’t.
Here are a couple of examples of workplace discrimination:
1. Your Workplace Lacks Diversity
A lack of diversity in the workplace can often create a hostile environment and contribute to higher turnover. In other words, when people feel unwelcome in the workplace, they don’t tend to stick around.
2. Retaliation is a Common Thing in Your Workplace
When other employees speak out, are you noticing that they don’t seem to keep their jobs for much longer? Companies that empower discriminatory behavior tend to do so by intimidating those who report hostile behavior. If you’re considering speaking up but are advised not to do so by your supervisors or colleagues, that’s a clear sign that something is not right in your workplace and that you should consult with an employment lawyer.
3. Offensive Language and Comments
It is the responsibility of the employer to make sure that their employees are not exposed to offensive or inappropriate language in the workplace. They are required to take active steps to ensure they’ve done everything to maintain an appropriate and positive working environment. Although what seems to be offensive language can often depend on the listener’s sensitivity. But, certain groups of words and phrases will always be offensive. If you experience this type of discrimination, make sure to report it.
4. You Are Asked Inappropriate Questions
Does your supervisor or your colleagues ask personal questions that aren’t related to your job? Were you asked some inappropriate questions during your interview? While sometimes personal questions can be harmless, your employer may not be asking them with the best intentions. They may be looking for reasons not to give you the job or use your answers to discriminate against you.
How and Where to Report Discrimination in the Workplace?
Discrimination in the workplace can be reported either to your state department of labor or the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). However, before you decide to file your discrimination complaint, make sure to do the following steps:
1. Tell Your Employer
The first step in dealing with discrimination and harassment in the workplace is telling your employer what is happening. Too often, illegal acts of employment discrimination go unrecognized because the victim does not make it clear that specific conduct is offensive and unacceptable. Your workplace may have certain protocols for reporting discrimination incidents, and if they exist, you should follow them.
Make sure to demand that a written report is made any time a discriminatory incident happens to demonstrate that you expect your rights to be protected and to create a paper trail of your experiences and efforts to confront the problem. If your employer is the one who is discriminating against you, don’t hesitate to go above their head to make your complaint. If there is no supervisor you can go to, consider talking to an experienced employment lawyer. Remember, although your employer is required to comply with the law, it is up to you to make sure your rights are protected.
2. Contact the EEOC
If you don’t get any response from your employer, consider filing your discrimination claim to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This agency has the responsibility of overseeing compliance for a lot of federal anti-discriminatory and anti-harassment laws, or you can file a complaint with your state equal employment agency. This is probably the fastest way to get your company’s attention quickly.
3. Document the Incidents
A good thing to do is to keep a diary of any discrimination or harassment incidents. Record the date, time, location, involved parties, witnesses, and other details of the inappropriate conduct or speech. Additionally, keep any objects and pictures which may be posted or left for you or given to you that may prove that you’re being discriminated against in the workplace. All of this can be helpful in your claim.
4. Review Your Company’s Policy
Before filing a discrimination claim, make sure to review your employer’s anti-discrimination policy to determine if it’s possible to file a discrimination charge with your company directly. If your employer has initiated an internal grievance procedure, it may be a good idea to file a charge internally as well as with the EEOC. If you own a copy of the policy, make sure to retain it, as it shows that your employer has officially stated that they will not act in discriminatory ways.
5. Review Laws
Review state and federal laws to see what your rights are. These laws are available on the internet as well as at law libraries and some general libraries. Some of the most important federal anti-discrimination laws include:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964;
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA);
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); and
- Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
6. Get Legal Help
Unlawful discrimination is bad enough in any setting, but it can be particularly difficult when it happens in the workplace since work is unavoidable. If you’ve been dealing with harassment and discrimination at work, it is in your best interest to seek advice from a professional employment lawyer who can explain your options and ease you through this process.
Everyone has the right to work in an environment free from harassment, bullying, violence, and discrimination. Employers should be aware of their responsibilities to ensure that their workplace and its culture are not in any way hostile towards employees. However, if you’re experiencing any kind of hostile behavior, it is your right and duty to report it. An employment lawyer can be instrumental in helping you end discrimination and harassment in your workplace and help you get appropriate compensation.
To find out whether you have a discrimination case worth pursuing, feel free to contact Cilenti & Cooper today. We treat every case with the attention and care it deserves and can fight for your civil rights from beginning to end. We offer a free consultation to all of our prospective clients, so you have nothing to lose.