If you’re still employed, there are steps you should consider taking to protect your rights. Alternatively, there are things you should not do even if your employer is treating you illegally:
- Identify the specific acts that you believe are illegal. (Remember, not all types of harassment or discrimination is illegal.)
- Report the behavior in writing. You should consult the employee handbook to see how and to whom you should report the behavior, but most often you should report it to your immediate supervisor, human resource manager, or other upper manager. If possible we recommend that you do it via email (or after you report it verbally, send a confirmation email) because emails show the date, time, and recipient of the email.
- Stay focused. You should always include the facts on which your complaint is based, but don’t include every petty offense someone committed against you. An employer is less likely to investigate or try to fix the problem if you’re complaining about everything and everybody. As the old saying goes, “choose your battles wisely.”
- Compile evidence, but be careful! You should consult your employee handbook, use common sense, and consult an attorney if you need to gather evidence to support your claim. Typically we caution employees against removing any documents from the employer’s place of business. This varies by employer, industry, type of claim, etc. The most important point to note is that you should never violate the law, the employer’s policies, or anyone else’s privacy in an effort to support your claim.
- Consult an experienced employment attorney. Employment law is a minefield. If you believe your employer is acting illegally toward you, you should immediately call someone who can advise you.
- Don’t quit. If you are thinking about pursuing a lawsuit, resigning can have disastrous consequences. Each case is different, so you should contact an attorney. But as a general rule, do not quit, resign, or intentionally do something to get fired.
- Don’t give the employer a reason to discipline or terminate you. Oftentimes a court will excuse an employer’s behavior if you violated a policy, were insubordinate, or broke a rule. Remember, the ultimate question will be whether the employer’s actions against you were legal or illegal; you want to remove any argument that you deserved to be demoted, fired, etc.
- Don’t discuss your complaints with coworkers or on social media. Unless you believe the employer is also discriminating against the coworker, we usually advise keeping these matters private.
- Don’t wait too long. You should immediately report discrimination or harassment. If you don’t, you may lose your ability to complain about it later. Again, we recommend contacting an attorney immediately, especially if your employer is not attempting to fix the problem.
- Don’t let it go. Discrimination/harassment escalates; it rarely gets better without someone intervening. Good employers want to know if a supervisor is engaging in illegal behavior so that they can fix the problem. If someone is treating you illegally in workplace, please speak up!
We at the Nelson Law Group have extensive experience handling all types of employment claims and disputes. Our employment lawyers are personable, down-to-earth, and will guide you through a discrimination or harassment claim. Call (865) 383-1053 to speak to an employment lawyer.