by Christine Yared
What should you do if you are experiencing discrimination or being sexually harassed at your place of employment? There are five critical steps you should take. These steps apply for discrimination based on race, sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender expression and identity, religion, disability, age and other protected classes. They also apply to retaliation and sexual harassment.
1. Take Notes – Take notes about the improper actions as they occur. If you are not reading this blog until after the actions have taken place, you should still write notes now based on your best recollection.
What type of details are important? Include the time, place, words, actions and witnesses.
Example: I was in the break room pouring a cup of coffee with my back to the door. (insert name) came from behind me, tightly hugged me with the front of his body pressed against my back and his arms around my breast area. He made a comment like “hey baby,” or something like that. I don’t remember the date but I think it was the week before my son’s spring break. I think it was in the afternoon but I am not sure. After work I told my best friend about what happened.
Where should you keep your notes? At home. Do not record them on your work computer.
2. Gather Evidence – Make copies of letters, emails, notes, written jokes or cartoons, and other evidence. If someone places an inappropriate object in your work area, take a photograph if you can do so in a private and safe manner.
3. Talk to an Experienced Employment Law Attorney – Most attorneys will meet for an initial consultation for a small fee or without charge. Select an experienced employment law attorney. Evaluate the attorney during your first meeting.
You should find a different attorney if the attorney:
4. Read the Employee Handbook and Union Contract - Read and follow the steps in your employee handbook. If you are in a union read and follow the steps in your bargaining agreement. For safekeeping, print or copy the:
Pay specific attention to time deadlines. File a written complaint even if you missed a deadline.
5. If Needed, File A Complaint With the EEOC - Read here about the law, process and deadlines for filing a complaint with the:
If your employer is not handling your complaint appropriately, in a timely manner, or if you are experiencing retaliation, meet with your attorney and file a timely complaint with the government. Your attorney should advise you whether to file with the EEOC or state, the time deadlines, and the discrimination, retaliation and sexual harassment categories to select.
Each case is unique. Do not underestimate the importance of consulting with a qualified, experienced employment law attorney.