Unfortunately, many employers and companies get away with discrimination in the workplace. The reason why discrimination can occur more in the workplace than in other areas is because many employees are not aware of their rights.
On the other hand, some employees are aware of their rights but might be afraid of losing their position or of scaring away other potential employers by taking action against an employer. Finally, some forms of discrimination can be difficult to prove, as it can just be one person's word against another.
So, if you feel you've been treated unfairly because of your race, gender, religious affiliation or another protected civil area, you might feel uncertain about the options available to you. Can you sue? Can you demand fair treatment? Here's what you need to know about your options when experiencing discrimination in the workplace.
Make Sure the Treatment Is Illegal
Many bosses and companies can have policies or behaviors that are simply bad for employees. Bosses can choose favorites, provide raises to certain people and promote anyone they choose. If you are excluded, targeted or bullied at work, these behaviors (even if reprehensible) may not actually be illegal.
Poor treatment in the workplace is only illegal if it stems from prejudice against your race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age or disability. You can't always go after a boss just for treating you badly from time to time.
Face the Problem
It might not be your favorite thing to do, but the first step you should take is to face the problem directly. Usually, this means confronting the perpetrator of the behavior and pointing out the offenses.
For example, if you are a Muslim working in a retail store, your supervisor might always keep you in the back or stocking shelves instead out helping customers due to your religious dress standards. In this case, you would directly ask the supervisor for the diverse positions that other employees of your same pay grade and job description enjoy, explaining that you feel discriminated against.
It's important to confront the issue directly because:
• It shows that the person is made directly aware of the situation.
• It shows that you took reasonable steps to make reparations.
• The meeting will help you seek legal help later if the behavior does not stop or if you are fired because of your request.
• Taking this step can result in retaliation, which only solidifies your case.
In some cases, a civil meeting might be all that is necessary to change the hostile environment you currently experience at work.
Go Higher Up
If the behavior does not stop after you make an effort to solve the problem on an individual level, it's time to go to the next level up. This usually mean filing a formal complaint with a manager or human resources department.
It's important you make the company aware of the behavior, because if they refuse to investigate the incident or change policies because of what has occurred, they are also liable should the behavior continue.
Companies will often take drastic steps to stay on the right side of discrimination laws. You can find that your problem ends at this stage.
Talk With a Lawyer
Finally, if the problem does not stop after you've gone through company channels, it's time to speak with a lawyer. Your layer will help you file a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. You have to file this charge before you can take any steps toward a lawsuit.
After the EEOC reviews your case, they draft you the right to sue, meaning that they know your case has merit and that you deserve to be compensated for how you have been treated. Usually, cases that involve physical and intense verbal harassment, direct personal bullying, loss of wages and other quantifiable evidence are easily passed by the EEOC.
If you have questions about discrimination in the workplace, contact us at the Law office of Fernando Hidalgo.