How Can I Protect Myself From Discrimination?

If you find yourself amidst an employment dispute, taking the following steps might help bolster the credibility of your claims and hopefully avoid a he said/she said situation.

Record Important Events and Witnesses:  If you sense that you are being treated unfairly, you should record all incidents of wrongful conduct.

On either your home computer or in a journal record: incidents, dates, times, and witnesses. Importantly, do not use your work computer to keep a record.  Although the more details the better, this assignment does not have to be a time consuming process.  Some clients send e-mails to themselves (using their personal devices) or use their phone to keep notes.

Keeping an accurate chronology of wrongful conduct will help you recall critical events with accuracy in the event you need to file an internal complaint with human resources or a lawsuit.  Having this evidence protects you from further discrimination because it may convince your employer to intervene.  Without disclosing specific details of wrongful conduct, it is difficult to convey the severity of the unlawful circumstances.  General allegations of wrongful conduct are not as convincing.  

More importantly, you bear the burden to prove illegal motive, such as discrimination or retaliation.  If you fail to document events as they happen, later you may not have the evidence necessary to prove your case.

Save All Related Documents and Correspondences: Just as an employer keeps a personnel file on you, you should likewise save any and all documents, correspondences, and records that relate to your employment history.  Once an employee is terminated, her or she is typically locked out of their office and work e-mail account.  During litigation, it is not uncommon for an employer to “misplace” critical evidence.  The following is a list of records that every employee, regardless of his or her situation, should save:

—  Any communications regarding your claims with anyone 

—  Written complaints that you have submitted to your employer

—  Employment offer letters

—  Any documents that you have signed

—  Any documents relating to your employer’s policies

—  Any job descriptions for positions that you have held at the Company

—  Any documents reflecting your work performance

—  All texts

—  Any voicemails

—  All social media messages and posts

—  All notes

—  Calendar entries

—  Any gifts or cards given to you

—  Any documents that anyone has written on your behalf

—  Performance evaluations (negative and positive)

Clearly Communicate that You Want the Unlawful Conduct to Stop:  Some workplace issues might be the result of innocent misunderstandings.  Depending on the situation, a simple conversation might be enough.  However, if you sense that your objections to unlawful conduct fall on deaf ears, notify the perpetrator in writing.   That way you will more likely be able to demonstrate that you did not welcome the unlawful actions at issue.

Contact Human Resources:  If the retaliatory or discriminatory behavior continues, report the unlawful conduct to Human Resources or upper management.  Employers have a legal duty to remedy unlawful behavior immediately. Make a detailed written report to help your employer properly investigate your concerns and follow the procedures in your handbook.

If after making a report the situation becomes worse, consider contacting a lawyer about your legal options.

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