Gender discrimination in the workplace is a major issue for women, leaving them undervalued, underpaid and even wrongfully terminated each year. In Tampa, a former firefighter and a bank employee experienced that firsthand.
Women in the workplace face gender inequality when it comes to pay, making 79 cents to every dollar a man does, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. They can also face discrimination for things such as being pregnant. The two Tampa women each have their own run-ins with these disparities.
Heidi Wilson, a former Tampa Citicorp service center manager, was paid more than $50,000 less than her predecessor, a male colleague, according to local news reports. She was eventually passed up again for a raise and was fired without severance. After suing, she recently ended up getting an award of nearly $340,000.
The case of former Tampa Fire Rescue member Tanja Vidovic involves discrimination and retaliation. Last month she sued for discrimination after alleging that the fire department effectively shunned her from a career track because of her gender and because she got pregnant after being hired.
After her suit, the department fired her, citing “moral turpitude.” Her case is ongoing.
When faced with these issues, such as workplace discrimination and pay inequality, what can women do to fight it?
Watch for Bias That Isn’t Obvious
While some forms of gender discrimination are blatant, such as never being promoted regardless of good work, others are stealthier. As seen in one of the aforementioned examples, a huge problem women face in the workplace is being sidelined because they become mothers.
Pregnant women and new mothers are often overlooked for future promotions, excluded from important meetings or work gatherings, and given worse ratings because they have additional responsibilities outside the realm of work.
Knowing the conditions that affect your work environment will make you better geared to challenge them.
Document Discriminatory Behavior
If you suspect that you are being discriminated against because of your gender, the next step is to document your experiences.
For example, in order to determine if you’re being paid less than a man who has the same job with the same duties, it’s best to keep track of the tasks you’ve accomplished, any performance goals you’ve achieved, and any other notable pieces of evidence that can prove that you were deserving of a promotion but were overlooked because of your gender.
For other forms of discriminatory experiences, write down the details, along with the date and time. These pieces of information will capture your daily treatment and could act as direct evidence. If you attempt to discuss the discrimination with the perpetrator, do so via email or any other form of writing. Always keep the information you collect at home, so others do not have a chance to tamper with it.
Documenting your experiences and collecting evidence can help you if you choose to file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or a state labor agency. Last year, only 36 percent of cases filed with the EEOC were found to have “reasonable cause” and approved to go forward to a potential lawsuit. However, having a body of evidence could be helpful in furthering your cause.
Report Your Experience to Human Resources
If the discrimination gets worse over time, you may need to contact your HR. Although you can’t ask that HR make a colleague change his behavior and you can’t make claims about your salary and job classification without having information to back it up, HR can document any violations of the law.
Be fully aware of the company policies regarding discrimination, equal pay, and where you stand in the corporate hierarchy. Brush up on discrimination laws and verify whether there has been a violation before you set up the actual meeting.
Keep all records of your exchanges. Sending a thank you email, which includes all the details of your conversation, is a good idea. Now, you have solid proof of your attempts to talk to the person responsible for establishing a positive work environment.
Contact the EEOC
If your situation doesn’t change, you can then start the process of filing a lawsuit. The first step is to file a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC. By law, you need to do so before filing a lawsuit against your employer.
The EEOC will then conduct an investigation and, if the agency finds that you have been a victim of workplace discrimination, provides you with a “notice of a right to sue.” The investigation can take up to 180 days. If the investigation isn’t concluded by then, the agency has to give you a notice if you ask for it.
Using the notice, you can then file a lawsuit with a workplace discrimination lawyer, who can help you navigate the procedure associated with pursuing a case.
If you’ve been a victim of gender discrimination in the workplace, contact our Tampa office to learn more about your options. We represent clients in cases involving violations such as discrimination, wrongful termination, and wage theft, and are available to help you determine what your next steps are.