Workers who believe they have been harmed by illegal discrimination may sue current and former employers. If victimized by illegal job bias, here are some strategies which can protect your rights and enhance the strength of your claim:
- File formal complaints with the proper governmental agencies. Complaints concerning most types of illegal discrimination must be filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and state agencies overseeing discriminatory employment practices. An attorney who practices in the area of employment law can draft and file these complaints on your behalf.
- You must file complaints and initiate lawsuits prior to strict deadlines. Failing to act in timely manner will cause the loss of your legal rights.
- Consider hiring an attorney experienced in employment discrimination litigation. Most job bias victims don’t know which law or laws may apply in their cases. Non-attorneys at governmental agencies (such as the EEOC and Department of Labor) almost always write initial complaints, though they are not always familiar with all the laws involving other agencies (or sometimes even their own agencies). Incomplete and improperly worded legal documents can destroy even the strongest of cases. Agencies allow private attorneys to draft these documents on behalf of their clients.
- It’s vital to accumulate evidence early on. Evidence not obtained early often becomes impossible to retrieve. Gather evidence, but do so legally. Consider requesting a copy of your personnel file prior to filing a job bias complaint.
- If still working for the employer you’re filing a complaint against, watch out for illegal retaliation. Though it’s unlawful to punish workers for filing job bias complaints, many employers do so. Consider sending the employer copies of the job bias documents which were submitted to the government, via certified, return receipt mail. With proof showing mailing and receipt of these items, you can demonstrate that an employer was made aware that a job bias complaint had been filed prior to your being demoted or fired.
- Log important incidents as they happen. Events not written down are often forgotten.
- Seek favorable witnesses, but don’t be surprised when even “close friends” dread coming forward. Keep in contact with coworkers who later quit or are fired. Because they’re no longer financially dependent on the discriminating employer, these witnesses can be of extraordinary importance.
- If fired, start looking for work. You are required to minimize your out-of-pocket damages by beginning your job search immediately.
- Workplace discrimination can cause anguish and anxiety. Meeting with a psychologist or social worker can help heal emotional wounds and documents your mental pain and suffering. “Disrupted sleep patterns, diminished enjoyment of things once cherished, changed eating patterns and frayed family relationships commonly accompany the anger and depression which follows the loss of one’s job,” notes Michael Rappaport, a Miami psychologist.
- Look for satisfaction and happiness outside of your workplace or legal battle. Job bias disputes are typically long-lasting marathons, not quick-ending sprints. Maintaining a positive outlook will enhance the likelihood of legal success. Importantly, it will also help you maintain your physical well-being and mental health.
The EEOC lacks jurisdiction over violations involving the Family & Medical Leave Act. The U.S. Department of Labor oversees compliance of this new federal law, though it permits the filing of private lawsuits without prior contact with the agency. Some job discrimination complaints involve numerous laws which can be overseen by multiple agencies.
Hiring your own attorney can help because private attorneys can take action long before governmental agencies start looking through their ever growing mountains of files. The EEOC, for example, waits months or even a year or more before investigating its job bias complaints.
When told she was being “laid off,” a victim of job bias asked for and received photocopies of employee notes her supervisor maintained at her desk. Surprisingly, the notes stated that the worker wouldn’t be promoted until she “solved” her occasional need for medical leave. Evidence of this type can be of significant value
“Discriminatory firings hurt even more than terminations for justifiable reasons. People who are fired for cause can make changes and learn from their mistakes. Victims of employment discrimination are unable to alter what makes them vulnerable to abuse,” Rappaport added.