Unfortunately, discrimination in the workplace is still a reality for many working Americans. 42% of women in the United States say they faced gender discrimination at work and African Americans and Latinos face the same level of discrimination they did 25 years ago. Discrimination isn’t just related to gender and race. It also includes age, religion, disability, sexual preference, pregnancy, veteran status, and other similar factors.
With the prevalence of discrimination in today’s work force, it is important to know what to do if it is happening to you. Although it may seem straightforward, there are steps that you need to take to ensure that your complaint is heard and respected.
1. Ask the perpetrator to stop.
If you are being harassed or discriminated against, the very first step is to ask the perpetrator to stop. Not only is it important to make clear that you don’t appreciate the behavior, but many times issues can be resolved by a simple conversation. There are instances in which someone may be unintentionally discriminating or unaware that their actions are perceived that way. Remain calm and respectful.
2. Collect evidence and keep notes.
If the person does not stop when you ask, start documenting the behavior. Documentation can take the form of evidence like emails or text messages from that person. You can also keep a dairy or notes of any discriminatory interactions. Gather the information of anyone who may have witnessed the discrimination occur. This will help strengthen your claim when you speak with your supervisor and could be valuable evidence down the road if you are forced to file a claim with the EEOC or eventually a lawsuit.
3. Follow your company’s discrimination policy.
In addition to applicable state and federal laws, look at your company’s discrimination policy and employee handbook. You will want to follow your company’s internal protocol before reaching out to a government agency. After brushing up on the applicable rules, speak with the appropriate party as outlined by your company. Depending on the policy, this could be a supervisor or human resources. Request that they investigate the matter and present any evidence that you have documented up to this point
4. File a claim.
If your employer does not take your claim seriously or you are unable to get the results you need, it is time to file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or your appropriate state agency. Before filing a lawsuit, you must get the approval to do so.
In general, you need to file a charge with one of these agencies within a year. This time limit will differ depending on where you are and who you chose to file with. After a charge is filed, the agency will investigate your claim. They will then notify your employer and request that you both participate in mediation to settle the dispute. If mediation does not settle the dispute and the investigation is completed, you will be issued a Notice of Right to Sue.
5. Speak with an employment lawyer.
After a Notice of Right to Sue is issued, you have a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit. During your investigation, it is smart to contact an employment lawyer because of this short time period. You will want to have a lawyer who is already privy to the facts of your case so you do not miss the deadline. Moreover, legal counsel can provide invaluable direction as you gather evidence and make sense of the whole process.
The only thing worse than being a victim of discrimination is being discriminated against and not having your voice heard. Knowing how to handle these claims is a vital step to getting the compensation you deserve. For more information, be sure to check out information on the EEOC website.