Do you find yourself in a situation where you are being discriminated at work, but you have no idea what to even do beyond going to HR? This is probably one of the most common scenarios I encounter during consultations. What I’d like to do is go over some very basic things to keep in mind if you find yourself in a situation where you suspect that you are the victim of discrimination.
Documentation is king.
The very first thing to do is take stock of the documents you have that are related to your employment. For example, any type of disciplinary documents, employee handbook, company memos, pertinent emails, termination letter, any complaints that you have filed or sent to anyone at the company like your boss, HR, or a coworker, or anything that may be relevant.
These documents are of extreme importance. By way of example, I had a case where I had a client that was written up, in part, for allegedly not showing up to work on a certain day, yet my client was lucky to have an email from a coworker and other documents evidencing that he was in fact at work that day. Needless to say, the employer quickly changed its stance after these documents were presented.
This also includes sending follow-up emails after meetings. Not only are sending this type of emails extremely helpful in a non-discrimination situation because they help assure that you and your managers are on the same page, it can also serve as a powerful tool to show what occurred during a particular meeting. They do not need to be anything long or intricate. A basic summation of what was discussed during the meetings can prove crucial. This is also important if you complained of discrimination verbally. A quick email to the person you complained to restating or reaffirming your meeting – the fact that you complained about discrimination – can make or break a case when there is nothing else to support your claim that you actually complained of discriminating.
Take notes on who witnessed what and make a timeline.
Consider a situation where your boss says something racist, sexists, or just discriminatory in general. Absent extraordinary circumstances, there will be no documentation to prove your boss’ conduct, but there may be witnesses. The first thing you need to do is assess if there are any witnesses and make notations of who was there and what they saw. You will be surprised how often people forget who witnessed a particular incident. Moreover, one of the first things that employment lawyers are asked by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is for a list of witnesses with their contact information and what pertinent information they have. Similar information must also be furnished at the onset of a lawsuit.
On that same note, drafting a detailed timeline will prove to be invaluable. Be wary though of how much information you put in a timeline if you have not retained an attorney or have drafted something for the purpose of litigation. As a general rule, unless you are drafting something for an attorney just stick to the facts.
Consider consulting an employment lawyer.
Probably the question that permeates in people’s minds most often when they are in an uncomfortable conflict or discrimination in the workplace is, “Do I need a lawyer?” Simply put, there is no straightforward answer to this question. But in the event you do want to talk to a lawyer, I would highly recommend contacting one that specializes in employment law.
Employment law, much like a lot of other types of laws, has many unique aspects to it that contacting an employment lawyer is the best move. By way of example, the time limitations in brining or starting an employment law case (i.e. statute of limitations) are among the shortest. While you can generally wait up to four years to bring a breach of contract case in Texas, you may have as little as 45 or 90 days to start the process under some employment laws.
To conclude, start making sure that important documents that you need are accounted for, that you start taking notes of potential witnesses, and consider consulting with an employment lawyer. Every situation is different. In some situations, one fact can be of great importance, while in another it may be wholly irrelevant. That is why consulting with an employment lawyer is critical. If you would like to schedule a consult with an employment lawyer, feel free to contact us. We dedicate our practice entirely to employee-side employment law.