I think I am being discriminated against at work what should I do?
If you believe you are being subjected to an illegal form of employment discrimination then you need to act quickly to begin preserving your rights and any claims you may have under them. You should review the types of illegal employment discrimination that I address on individual pages of this website as well as the applicable form or forms of discrimination discussed on this blog, which you can access in the menu on the right. If you find that your workplace situation appears to fall into one or more of the types of prohibited discrimination then you should take the following steps:
- Take notes of everything that has happened at work that you believe may be part of the discrimination you are experiencing. Note the time, date and individuals involved in each event. You may vividly remember the discriminatory acts today but months down the road your memory may be imperfect. The notes can be really important in remembering key details and organizing the timeline of events that occurred.
- Obtain employment records that may be useful to your discrimination claims. These may include disciplinary warnings, paycheck stubs, employee handbooks, emails, instant message logs, memos, handwritten notes and other documents. Be careful, however, that you are not removing documents that may be privileged or contain sensitive information regarding trade secrets or client information. Your employer may have had you sign a confidentiality agreement in which you agreed not to remove these documents from the workplace. The employee handbook may include prohibitions on removing some of these materials as well. Additionally, you may have statutory or ethical obligations to protect the privacy of some of that information, such as HIPAA protections on medical records. It is best to ask your attorney about what documents may be acceptable to remove or copy from the workplace. If you have not hired an attorney yet then you should be cautious about what information you take. You can always note identifying information about the record in your notes to make it easier to locate those documents during the discovery process in your potential lawsuit.
- Be cautious about giving your employer legitimate reasons to discipline you. If your employer ends up terminating you both out of illegal discrimination and for a legitimate employment reason, such as absenteeism or performance, then that can seriously impair the value of your claims.
- Keep your ears open to complaints from other employees about the same type of discrimination. You may not be the only employee who is currently experiencing this form of discrimination and others in the past may have suffered the same discrimination. Evidence of a history of discrimination or that the discrimination is widespread in the office can greatly strengthen your claim.
- If you are suffering workplace harassment then you need to determine if your employer has an anti-discrimination or anti-harassment policy and report the harassment exactly as the policy requires. The policy may include an “open door” policy that you can speak to anybody in management or HR but it may also require you to speak to a certain member of management or HR. Follow whatever the policy requires. Document your complaint in your notes and if possible, make your complaint to the company in writing.
- Talk to an employment lawyer about your claims. I know you expect a lawyer to tell you this but with employment discrimination claims the law is very complex and small steps you take to preserve your rights can make a big difference in your claims. Every discrimination claim is different and the law can deal with those details very differently, often on the basis of very slight differences in the facts.
If you believe you have an employment discrimination claim then you need to act quickly to take the right steps to preserve your claims. Under federal and Texas law you have a limited amount of time — months — to file an administrative charge to preserve your rights. Filing an administrative charge is a necessary part of the litigation process but an employment lawyer may be able to work with your employer to correct the discrimination without filing a charge or ultimately filing suit. Once the charge has been filed it may be more difficult to bring the company to the bargaining table to negotiate a solution. That is something your lawyer can discuss with you. Contact my office to discuss your claims and the appropriate strategy to preserve your rights.
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net