The workplace can be difficult, and even cutthroat, at times. Some days you may feel that you aren’t getting the respect, attention, and compensation you deserve. Maybe you were passed over for a promotion that you thought you deserved. Or, perhaps your boss seems to criticize you more than other employees. These feelings often make employees wonder if they are the victim of employment discrimination.
In some situations, these feelings may pose valid questions. There are laws that protect employees from discrimination in the workplace. However, these laws are narrow and specific to certain behaviors and motives. Employees must be the victim of discrimination on the basis of a certain protected status – such as race, gender, sexual orientation, or age – before they may seek compensation from an employer for retaliation. Laws do not protect the generally unfair or arbitrarily harsh policies and procedures enforced by employers. How, then, can you know if you are the victim of employment discrimination? When should you start thinking about talking to an experienced employment discrimination attorney to see if a claim for damages is appropriate?
Protected Characteristics in Federal and California Anti-Discrimination Laws
There are both federal and California state anti-discrimination laws that protect employees from certain discriminatory behavior and policies. In California, employers are prohibited from discriminating against an employee (or prospective employee) because of that employee’s “race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation, or military and veteran status.”
What Counts as “Discrimination”?
Discrimination comes in many forms. If you have experienced any of the following, and believe that it may be due to a protected status, you may want to consider speaking to an attorney about an employment discrimination lawsuit.
Disparate Treatment and Impact. Specific employer conduct and/or policies that target or disproportionally affect a class with a protected characteristic. This may include promoting one gender consistently over another, firing employees when they reach a certain age, refusing to allow pregnant employees time-off before and after giving birth, or excluding a certain race from company outings.
Harassment. Specific employer conduct – such as unwanted touching, verbal abuse, or hazing – that is done because of a protected characteristic. Many times, employees will report a “hostile work environment,” which is a product of harassment.
Retaliation. Specific employer conduct that reduces or removes an employee’s compensation, benefits, or privileges because of a protected characteristic.
Determining If You Are a Victim of Workplace Discrimination
How do you know if you are a victim of employment discrimination or just have a terrible boss who just doesn’t care about the happiness of his or her employees? Here are a few suggestions to help you determine (1) if you may be a victim of employment discrimination, and (2) whether you should contact an experienced California employment discrimination attorney.
- Keep a journal. Documenting your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a journal can help to (a) pinpoint consistent and pervasive behavior, (b) establish a timeline of discrimination, and (c) assist in weeding out discriminatory behavior from poor (but legal) employer conduct. If you experience something that makes you feel uncomfortable, angry, or hurt – write it down. Document it. If you do have a case, this can help your attorney devise a compelling legal argument on your behalf.
- Take a break. Sometimes we can become overwhelmed at work. As work piles on and we feel underappreciated, we may become more sensitive to perceived discrimination. Unfortunately, antidiscrimination laws do not protect employees from bad managers or employers – their behaviors and policies must be tied to some protected characteristic. Take a step back, collect yourself, and then dive back in to see if the perceived discriminatory conduct has stopped. You may very well be correct, but a break can help to offer clarity and a fresh perspective.
- Speak with co-workers. You may not be the only one who feels that they are the victim of workplace discrimination. Talk to your co-workers and try to learn about their experiences.
- Do some research. Has anyone ever filed a complaint against your employer for discrimination? If so, you may be able to speak with them about their experiences.
- Contact an attorney. After you have cataloged your experiences, spoken with past and present employees, and taken a deep breath, it may be time to consult with an expert. An attorney can be a great ally during this difficult time, even if you are unsure of whether your employer’s actions and/or policies are discriminatory. An attorney will review the evidence you have gathered and explain the legal arguments you may be able to make. The more information you have collected, and the more organized it is, the better an attorney will be able to help.
Experienced California Employment Discrimination Attorneys
Work can be hard enough without the added stresses of discrimination. If you believe that you have been the victim of workplace discrimination you should contact an experienced California employment discrimination attorney to learn about your legal rights and options immediately.
The process for filing an employment discrimination claim and recovering compensation can be complicated, and is best handled by a seasoned employment discrimination lawyer. Contact us today for a free consultation.