What to do if You're Being Discriminated Against at Work
“Sorry Sharon, but we’ve only got so much money for raises, and George has children and a wife to support, maybe next year. “
Sharon may have just been discriminated against. In this case, the discrimination was most likely sex discrimination. But more than the supervisor’s statement will be necessary to win a case. There could also be other reasons for the decision that show that gender was not the real reason. The boss could just lie and deny making the statement. To win, Sharon needs to have more than one statement. Here are some actions to consider:
- First, write everything down. If Sharon writes everything down NOW, she will help preserve her memory when it is freshest. The date, time, a short statement of what happened, who was involved, where it happened, who heard or saw the incident, and who might have witnessed the incident, are all important. Then Sharon should write a time line with the same information for any other incident of discrimination during her employment (e.g., the time the boss took all the men to a training, but none of the women). Sharon should also include other important dates, such as date of hire, leaves, promotions, etc.
- Second, follow the procedure. If Sharon’s company has a procedure for reporting harassment and discrimination (and it should), she should contact the person or department that handles situations such as hers. If Sharon is worried that the boss will retaliate against her, she might want to skip to paragraph five first, but she should not delay. Failure to follow procedure can come back to haunt Sharon. She should take a coworker to any meetings if possible.
- Third, keep writing. Sharon needs to keep adding to her timeline for the foreseeable future. The more incidents she writes down, the more powerful the case will be. It is possible that she does not have a case now, but a pattern may show up in the future.
- Fourth, look for others that are comparable. Sharon needs to do a little investigation and determine which men and women she works with are similarly situated. This means, as a practical matter, those people at or near her level in the company who have the same or similar jobs. People working under the same supervisor are even better. Then Sharon should try to identify the treatment of these people, trying to identify, in her case, men who were treated better than the women, or women who were treated poorly.
- Fifth, find a lawyer. Sharon should set up a consult with an experienced attorney. She should not delay. An attorney who does a lot of employment discrimination law will know what other things Sharon should be doing. Sharon and her lawyer can determine whether a claim exists and whether it is worth pursuing taking all matters into account. This step should not be delayed. There are some very tight deadlines in employment law.