Discrimination in the workplace or at school, whether it’s over race, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexuality, age, or religion, is a serious matter and you may not know the initial steps to take. Workplace discrimination takes many forms, and it’s more common than you may think.
According to a 2002 study on race in the workplace by Rutgers University, 28% of African Americans, 22% of Hispanics and Latinos, and 6% of white Americans have experienced blatant discrimination at work. Far more reported unfair treatment, and all of those numbers are likely under-reported.
A 2013 Harvard Business Review research summary found similarly dismal experiences by women in the workplace, and a 2007 Williams Institute study of sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace found in some cases, up to 68% of LGBT people surveyed have experienced unfair treatment or discrimination.
Here are just a few studies that show how prevalent the problem is, and it is even possible that the numbers are underrepresented because many people are afraid to share their painful experiences.
If you ever feel discriminated against, remember these six tips for how to protect yourself.
1. Talk it over with someone you trust. Your first step is to find someone you can trust to talk to, who can help you get out of your own head and get some perspective. This can be a non-work friend, attorney, spouse, therapist, or whomever provides you with good advice in your life. Do not have this conversation with anyone who works or studies in the place that you feel discriminated in, and definitely not Human Resources without a lawyer present.
2.Write down the facts immediately. As soon as you feel you have been discriminated against, write down every aspect of the situation that occurred. The more information, the better. This includes the date, approximate time, location, parties involved, witnesses, and the details of the improper conduct. It is important to include all of the details even if they do not seem very important at the time.
3. Keep any objects or pictures that you believe to be discriminatory against you. This can include items that have been placed in common and visible areas in your workplace or campus, pictures that you have been given that target you individually, or written messages that
4. Review federal and state laws to see what your rights are. These laws are easily accessible on the internet. Some major federal anti-discrimination laws include:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: 42 U.S.C § 2000e, et seq. This federal law prohibits discrimination in terms and conditions of employment on the bases of race, color, national origin, sex, and religion.
- Age discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA): 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq. This federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of age for workers over the age of 40.
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. this prohibits discrimination against certain disabled individuals and requires employers to make “reasonable accommodations” to allow access to buildings and functionality in the workplace.
5. Review your company’s or school’s anti- discrimination policy. It is important to know what your employer has put in writing because it can help your case.
6. Retain an attorney. An attorney can help you sort through the complex laws, guide you through the intricacies of the legal process, and also remain an effective advocate for your rights. An attorney can look at the big picture more clearly and may help you stay focused on protecting your rights.
These materials have been prepared by Cohen Seglias for informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.