Most people would agree that employment decisions should be based on factors like merit or seniority, not factors like gender or race. Unfortunately, discrimination in the workforce does still happen. When it does, you have options. You may be able to file an employment discrimination lawsuit. But to do that successfully, you will have to build a strong case. Employment discrimination can be difficult to prove. Take a look at some tips that will help you build a discrimination case that will hold up in court.
If your discrimination case goes to court, you'll be asked to provide proof of your claims. However, memories can fade over time. If you're trying to prove that you were harassed or treated unfairly because of your race, gender, religion, or orientation, having a record of the times when you feel that harassment or unfair treatment occurred can help. Keep a journal documenting times, dates, and locations of any relevant incidents.
Even if you're trying to prove that you were passed over for a promotion or demoted unfairly for discriminatory reasons, those actions usually don't happen in a vacuum. If your coworker tells a racial joke and your supervisor lets it slide, or your manager makes suggestive comments to female employees, those events can bolster your claim, even if they aren't the main focus of your claim. Make sure to write them down when they happen, and include all of the detail that you can.
Follow Company Policy
This is a vital part of building a discrimination case, and it's one that many people fail to understand: You must follow company policy. That means that you must report your complaint to your superior or human resources, you must try to resolve the issue internally within the company, and you must not quit or give the company any legitimate reason to fire you.
It's difficult to report discriminatory behavior to your boss. It's understandable that you might fear embarrassment or retaliation. But for your case to succeed in court, there must be some evidence that you attempted to give your employer a chance to correct the problem. It's possible that you'll be pleasantly surprised—many companies truly do want a non-discriminatory workplace, and will take appropriate steps to correct problems if they come up. But if they don't take steps to fix the problem, you'll at least have evidence that you tried to bring it to their attention.
You also can't quit, because then you will no longer have standing to sue. Only in very extreme cases—such as if you're actually in physical danger at work—will you be able to go ahead with a lawsuit if you quit over the discriminatory behavior. For the time being, you have to stick it out. You also have to avoid giving the company legitimate reasons to fire you. If they fire you for discriminatory reasons, or in retaliation for reporting discrimination, that won't hurt your case. It could even help. But if they fire you for chronic tardiness or poor performance and can demonstrate that, then you probably won't have much of a case left to pursue.
This doesn't mean that you should wait to see what your company does before consulting a lawyer. As a matter of fact, consulting a lawyer early on can help. A discrimination attorney can help you through the process of reporting the discrimination and let you know whether any action the company does take is legally adequate.
Understand the Timelines
Before you can file a lawsuit for discrimination in the workplace, you need to report the discrimination to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), who will review your claim and provide you with what's known as a Right to Sue letter. When it comes to filing a claim with the EEOC and filing a lawsuit after receiving a Right to Sue letter, there are some deadlines that you need to know about.
Generally speaking, you must file your claim with the EEOC within 180 days of the discriminatory action. There are some exceptions—you may have up to 300 days if your state or a local agency has the same type of anti-discrimination law on the books as the federal law—but it's probably safest to keep that 180-day deadline in mind. Also, once you receive your letter, you only have 90 days to file your lawsuit. Because time is of the essence, it's best not to wait until after you hear from the EEOC to consult an attorney. You'll need an attorney that's ready to go when you get your right-to-sue letter. An attorney can also help you through the EEOC claims process.
You don't have to settle for discriminatory practices in your workplace. A discrimination attorney in your area can help you take legal action so that you can get the treatment you deserve in the workplace.