There are many times when work seems unfair. Sometimes it’s as if you boss just doesn’t like you. If it goes a step beyond general workplace politics and you suspect your employer is discriminating against you, then you may have a case for employment discrimination. Your employer holds power over you and may try to control you through harassment or threats. You need to take charge in order to repair the structure of your workplace.
Before you take any action, look at the facts surrounding your situation. Laws vary by state and context. For example, the Boy Scouts of America have anti-gay policy in effect. An openly gay California Eagle Scout was recently fired from working at a Boy Scout summer camp for reasons surrounding his sexual orientation. California laws protect employees from dismissal based on sexuality. However, California is superseded by the Supreme Court ruling that state laws don’t apply to private organizations, like the Boy Scouts.
That case exemplifies discrimination based on sexual orientation. There are many types of discrimination including gender, race, religion, age, disability, marital status, pregnancy, political leanings and citizenship. Clothing retailer Wet Seal is currently involved in a discrimination suit that alleges company policy promotes a white image and discriminates against employees of color.
Generally speaking, discrimination as a policy has a negative effect on business. The CEO of Wet Seal resigned in the wake of the law suit and declining sales. There may be circumstances that have created the appearance of discrimination, like if recent hires or promotions are of similar backgrounds. However, this could be coincidence and completely based upon merit. Unless there is evidence of discrimination, it would be hard to build a case.
If you’re concerned your word alone isn’t good enough, consider the following. Migrant workers shelling crawfish in Louisiana spoke up about the poor working conditions and the employer’s disregard for worker’s rights. They had very little power, living in trailers constantly watched by their boss, but based on their testimony the migrant workers created their own power. Walmart, retail giant and the largest purchaser of their product, refused to continue business with the company until treatment of the migrant workers improved.
You may first consider filing a complaint with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or EEOC. It’s a federal organization created in 1964 to enforce the Civil Rights Act. You will be required to provide your information or have someone else provide it if you wish to protect your identity. Along with your employer’s information, you will need a description of the incidences and the dates they occurred.
Don’t wait to take action. Unless it is an issue of equal pay, there are time limits to making your claim. You have 180 days from the date of incidence to file your claim. If state or other local laws prohibit the discrimination, the deadline can be extended to 300 days. However, as with any case, you should be as prompt as possible when filing any claims to fall within the statute of limitations.
Having a lawyer on your side would be the best idea if the situation requires immediate attention. The EEOC could take time to completely review your claim. If you’re under pressure to sign documents, like a severance or a waiver, you shouldn’t hesitate to find reliable legal advice before continuing. Employment discrimination is a civil issue, so make sure you talk to someone who specializes in personal injury or employment law specifically. A lawyer can also help you with the local laws regarding discrimination within your state, county and city.
It is safe to say that any employer found guilty of discrimination will be forced to change their policy and affect a more tolerant work environment. Taking that first step to report discrimination and ignite change is always scariest. You could be risking your livelihood. With the law on your side, you can rest easy at night. Talking to a employment rights attorney will help. Winning your case will restore balance to your life.
Written by the Marketing Department for Robert Koenig, Accident Attorneys Group.