Key Principles

If you think you are experiencing discrimination in the workplace, you may have little time before you need to decide how to respond. 

Even if you are certain you are experiencing discrimination, try to gather evidence before you take any other action. Complaining about discrimination without support puts you at risk. Employers may retaliate against employees who complain about discrimination. The most common complaint made by people who file formal charges of job discrimination is retaliation.

Evidence can be found in documents and through witness statements. Understanding how anti-discrimination laws apply to your situation can help you understand what types of evidence would best assist you. Finding witnesses who will support you is often critical. All supporting documents you gather should be kept at home; the exception is confidential documents, which should not be removed from your workplace. Keep a diary with dates and details of relevant events.

When you are ready to approach your employer, be polite and flexible. Working out the matter with your employer, even if you do not receive everything you want, is often the best result. If you decide you want to quit, try to find another job first. It is easier to find another job while you are still employed.

If your employer fails to respond properly, you can file a charge of discrimination with a government agency, like the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. There are likely state or local agencies where you live where you could file instead. The government agency may conduct an investigation or offer you a chance to mediate between you and your employer. You can improve your chance of success in a government investigation by thoroughly documenting your evidence. If you participate in a mediation, bring an advocate with you.

Try to get legal advice about your particular situation as early as possible. Lawyers in employment discrimination cases typically charge a small initial fee and a portion of any money you win. Some organizations provide free legal advice. 

Fighting discrimination is hard. Most people don’t try. If you want to try, I commend your courage and wish you success.

More by Rich Proulx

Are We Speaking the Same Language Here?

Q: Our workforce is about 70% Hispanic. Some speak English, some don’t. Since we work in construction, we’re thinking about starting an English-only policy for

Scrutiny Mutiny

Q:  Recently I applied to teach math at a private school. The application was extremely thorough. Maybe too thorough? It asked for my nationality, height

Blood and Guts and…Work?

Q: I am the owner of a large canning factory. My board of directors has suggested that we organize a blood drive for our employees. 

Canine Invasion

Q: One of my employees came in to work today with a note from her therapist saying she needed a companion dog to accompany her