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Workplace Discrimination Attorney

Have you faced discrimination in the workplace? If you have, you may have experienced illegal behavior that entitles you to compensation for any damages you have suffered as a result. The law protects employees from being treated unreasonably, and there are a number of ways that you can seek justice.

 

Start by speaking to a workplace discrimination attorney. These lawyers can help you take the right steps whether you’re making a formal complaint or considering a lawsuit. Before you schedule a consultation, it may help to understand what to expect.

 

This short guide will introduce you to what workplace discrimination is, what acts qualify as discrimination, and what you should do (and not do) if you think you’ve experienced it.

 

Table of Contents

 

  • What is Workplace Discrimination?

  • What are the Different Types of Workplace Discrimination?

    • What laws define discrimination?

    • What behaviors may be considered workplace discrimination?

      • Unfair treatment

      • Harassment

      • Denial of a reasonable workplace change

      • Improper questioning

      • Retaliation

    • Can job seekers experience discrimination?

  • What to Do if you Experience Workplace Discrimination

    • What steps should I take to respond?

    • What should I avoid if I experience discrimination?

  • Is it Time to Call a Discrimination Attorney?

 

What is Workplace Discrimination?

To discriminate against someone is to treat them differently, or unjustly, based on certain characteristics. When it happens to you in the workplace—based on certain characteristics that are protected by law—discrimination can be considered a serious violation of your rights.

The law forbids your employer from discriminating against you based on your:

  • Sex
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Color
  • Age (if over 40)
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Sexual orientation
  • National origin
  • Gender identity and expression
  • Ethnicity
  • Pregnancy

Not every instance where one employee is treated differently than another is unlawful. Discrimination may be actionable if it rises to the point that it interferes with your ability to perform your duties or results in a significant job detriment, including but not limited to termination. Your employer does not have to be the source of discrimination to be held responsible. They may still be liable if they allow others, such as coworkers, to discriminate against you.

What are the Different Types of Workplace Discrimination?

A wide variety of behaviors may be considered discrimination. To help you understand if you’re experiencing unlawful and actionable discrimination, you should consider the laws that define discrimination, the actions that are considered discriminatory, and the ways that discrimination can affect you even as a job seeker.

What laws define discrimination?

Over time, the US has passed a significant number of laws that describe and prohibit certain types of discriminatory behavior and assign penalties to them. Depending on the type of discrimination you are facing, the following laws may play the largest role in your discrimination case.

  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA): The ADEA protects individuals who are at least 40 years of age or older from age-based discrimination. The size of the business involved may play a role in whether or not its protections cover you. 
  • Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Title I and Title V): The ADA prohibits employers in both the public and private sector from discriminating against employees who have actual or perceived disabilities. 
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Title VII was the first law to define many of the protected classes and attributes listed in the first section. To this day, it prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, and the other protected classes listed. 
  • Civil Rights Act of 1991: This more recent Civil Rights Act expanded the penalties for employment discrimination. It enhanced the monetary damages that are recoverable in cases where employment discrimination could be proven to be intentional. 
  • The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA): The EPA defines and penalizes sex-based wage discrimination. It prohibits men and women from being paid different rates for substantially equal work.  
  • Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA): GINA is one of the most recent employment discrimination laws. It prohibits employers from discriminating against you on the basis of available genetic information.

Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Sections 501 and 505): These sections of the Rehabilitation Act expand the protections for disabled individuals who work in the federal government.

These laws provide a significant amount of coverage, but they may not be the limit of your protections. State laws may also play a role in protecting you from workplace discrimination.
 

What behaviors may be considered workplace discrimination?

A wide variety of abusive behaviors may be considered discriminatory. The following behaviors are among the most common in employment discrimation cases. For each one, you’ll be provided with examples of how the behavior might appear.

Unfair treatment

You may be experiencing unfair treatment if you are held to a different standard than other employees due to your membership in one of the protected classes. Many types of behavior may be considered unfair treatment.

Examples of unfair treatment

      • You are passed over for a promotion, and you hear from others that your managers are reluctant to promote people of your race. 
      • You are the subject of a rumor and are singled out because you participate in a particular religion.
      • Your managers fail to discipline abusive comments against you, though they do discipline comments of the same nature about other employees.

Harassment

Harassment is unwelcome physical or verbal behavior that is directed at you. This behavior may violate the law when it is based on your membership in one of the protected classes.

Examples of harassment

      • You are subjected to personal insults about your physical appearance or cultural background.
      • Managers or other employees mock you because of your accent.
      • You are challenged about the details of your religion by employees who are seeking to argue without your consent.

Denial of a reasonable workplace change

Employers are responsible for providing reasonable accommodation to their employees. They are also responsible for making changes if employees point out that certain aspects of the work environment violate standards. When employers ignore these requirements, it may be considered harassment.

Examples of denials of reasonable workplace changes

      • You submit a request for a reasonable disability accommodation, and you are ignored or denied.
      • You ask that a cartoon that mocks your background or religion be removed from a workplace wall, and you are refused or ignored.

Improper questioning

Employees have a reasonable expectation in the workplace to be free from probing and uncomfortable questions about their background, medical conditions, orientation, or personal life. Questioning may be considered discrimination, even if it is not intentionally insulting.  

Examples of improper questioning

      • You are repeatedly asked to explain or defend the rules of your religion.
      • You are asked to explain personal details about your sexual orientation.
      • You are interrogated with repeated questions about your legal status or right to work in the United States.

Retaliation

Retaliation includes any adverse action that your company takes against you because you exercised your right to report discrimination, harassment, or unsafe working conditions. It also applies to any action taken against you because you participated in an official investigation or lawsuit against your company. While retaliation frequently results in termination, it can also involve a constructive discharge (forced to quit) and/or other serious negative job consequences. 

Examples of retaliation

      • You are passed over for a promotion or fired after filing a discrimination complaint
      • You are subjected to a wave of false poor performance reviews after filing a complaint about conditions.
      • You are demoted, have your pay cut and are shunned within the workplace – effectively forcing you to quit your job. 

The examples above are not to be considered a complete list of discriminatory behaviors. Many other behaviors that are unjust or interfere with your ability to perform your duties may also qualify as discrimination.

Discrimination also doesn’t exclusively happen to those already in the workplace. You can be discriminated against as a job seeker. 

Can job seekers experience discrimination?

Yes, job seekers can also face discrimination. It is a violation of the law to discriminate against people who are seeking positions. The laws involved cover all of the following steps in the employment process:

  • Job postings and advertisements
  • Recruitment
  • Applications
  • Background checks
  • Interviews
  • Hiring
  • Pre-Employment Inquiries

Now you understand some of the laws and types of behavior that may be considered discriminatory. If you have experienced any of these behaviors in the workplace, it may be time for you to consider the next steps forward.

What to Do if you Experience Workplace Discrimination

If you have experienced discrimination in the workplace, you need to be careful. Winning your claim may depend on the actions that you take right now. Below, you’ll learn three steps you can take immediately, as well as some responses that should be avoided.

What steps should I take to respond?

To respond to workplace discrimination, you should take the following steps: 

    1. Preserve all evidence of your interactions
    2. Schedule a consultation with an employment discrimination lawyer
    3. Follow their advice to begin either a formal complaint or lawsuit.

Take a moment to examine why these steps matter and how they should be carried out.

Preserve all evidence of your interactions

You need to preserve evidence because—to win any complaint—you will need proof of the claims that you are making. You cannot assume that your co-workers or employers will cooperate in good faith with a discrimination complaint, so you must preserve any evidence possible yourself.

That evidence should include:

    • Copies of any discriminatory communications you’ve received: Compile any communications, including letters, memos, photos/videos and emails. These items should all be printed and placed in a folder because they can be deleted from company servers.
    • Evidence about your performance as an employee: If you are a celebrated employee, you should preserve any copies of laudatory performance reviews. You should also keep sales figures and other evidence of your performance. This evidence can help to protect you from retaliation after a complaint.
    • Testimony from sympathetic co-workers: Ask co-workers to write down any witness statements they can about the behaviors they have witnessed. This testimony should be taken while it is still fresh in the minds of the people who saw them happen.

Schedule a consultation with an employment discrimination lawyer

Schedule a consultation with a lawyer, and present the evidence that you have gathered to them. This consultation will be completely confidential and may be entirely free for you.

A lawyer will help you understand whether you have a case against your employer and what steps should be taken to move forward.  

Depending on your case, you may be able to find a lawyer who focuses their practice on a certain type of discrimination. Ask the firm you consider if racial discrimination lawyers or gender discrimination lawyers are available, if applicable to your circumstances.

Follow their advice to begin either a formal complaint or lawsuit

Follow your lawyer’s advice to either move forward with a complaint to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission or a lawsuit. You may be required to file and finish the administrative complaint process before a lawsuit is possible. Pay particular attention to the deadlines for the filing of both EEOC complaints and any subsequent discrimination lawsuit.

What should I avoid if I experience discrimination?

While you’re following the proper steps, some responses need to be avoided. It’s natural to want to stand up for yourself and to answer injustice by getting even. However, if you care about your case being resolved in your favor, you must:

    • Avoid letting emotion dictate your response: It can be very hurtful to face discrimination in the workplace but do not lash out. Your good performance as an employee can be used as evidence, and you don’t want to undermine that. 
    • Avoid retaliating against your coworkers or employers: Never respond to discrimination by responding in the same way or by committing illegal acts such as stealing or assault.
    • Avoid sharing the details of your response in the workplace: Your next steps should be kept between you and your lawyer until you’re ready to move forward. Sharing your response with others may lead to evidence being destroyed.

Is it Time to Call a Discrimination Attorney?

If you have experienced unlawful discrimination, it is time to speak to a workplace discrimation attorney. It is important to respond to these cases as quickly as possible if you want to access all evidence and avoid missing critical reporting and/or filing deadlines. Procrastination can be costly and result in the complete loss of your rights to bring a case or recover damages. 

Schedule a consultation now.