How to Deal With Workplace Discrimination
Unfortunately, discrimination is commonplace in workplaces up and down the country. In the United States alone, workplace discrimination costs businesses and industry $64 billion every year.
Whether you are discriminated against because of your gender, ethnic origin or age, one thing that all kinds of discrimination have in common is that it is a hurtful and traumatic thing to have to experience. If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination then there are several ways you can deal with it.
Know Your Rights
The first thing you should do is familiarize yourself with Federal discrimination laws, and let your employers know that you are taking these laws, and the inappropriate discrimination you are experiencing, very seriously. According to Federal law, discrimination against an individual or group on the grounds of disability, race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, and age and many other things are all prohibited.
These Federal laws are enhanced by further state laws: it’s hard to report on these as they vary from state to state, so be sure to check what the laws are in your local area. Make it clear to your employer that you feel you have been the victim of either harassment or discrimination. By drawing this to their attention in an official capacity they are required to investigate it and cannot simply ignore your complaints.
Don’t Make Things Worse
Despite the stress and trauma of discrimination, it’s important that you continue to complete your role at work to the best as your ability. Evidence of underperformance at work would severely hinder your discrimination case. If you feel you are being discriminated against because of your age, for example, because your employers continue to refer to you as old and slow, it’s important to show that this is discrimination as you are performing at the same rate as your other colleagues.
Don’t let the discrimination drive you to act out of character: Almost all employers will have active policies in place to offer drug-free and alcohol-free workplaces, for example. Whilst it can be tempting to turn to substances such as drugs or alcohol during times of extreme stress (such as the stress of being discriminated against at work) these will only make your problems worse: there are a wide variety of withdrawal resources available if you have fallen into this emotional trap, but the important thing is to stop now so that you don’t make your workplace problems any worse.
Keep a Diary and Any Evidence
It will be much easier to build a case proving harassment against your employer if you can provide specific examples of times and places you have been discriminated against. That’s why it’s important that you begin to keep a discrimination diary. Make as detailed a record with each entry as you can. Record the persons involved in the incident, the time, date, and place the incident took place, and the exact nature of the incident (if it is something someone has said to you then record exactly what was said: try to write this down verbatim if possible).
Similarly, if there are any objects or physical evidence used during the discrimination process then be sure you keep these too: your immediate reaction to seeing a harassing note or photograph may be to throw it away, but if you can keep it then it will help you to build a much stronger harassment case against your employer.
Take Professional Advice
This should always be the final step, but if you find your employer isn’t taking your complaints seriously and there are no improvements to your workplace environment or the levels of discrimination you are experiencing then it’s time to consider taking professional advice.
If you retain an attorney then they will be able to help you process all of the information you have gathered, explain the complexities of discrimination law to you, and look at the bigger picture to put together a legal case on your behalf. Taking things to this stage should always be the last resort, but an attorney will be able to help you to process things if you feel you can no longer do so on your own.