You probably joined your company because you liked the job, the benefits, and what seemed like a safe workplace. But what happens when things change, you find yourself being subjected to illegal working conditions, and you are being treated unfairly by your employer?
You may be confused about what your rights are due to misinformation and scare tactics being used against you to keep you quiet. Without taking action, what you are experiencing could get significantly worse and result in lost wages and benefits, being passed over for advancement opportunities, and an increase in stress that makes your job unbearable.
If you aren't sure if what you're experiencing is unfair or discriminatory, understand that unlawful work practices can take many forms. If you or someone you know needs help dealing with illegal employment situations, read on to learn more about how to deal with it.
How Is Unfair Treatment Defined in the Workplace?
State and federal laws prohibit employers from harassing or discriminating against individuals and employees because of certain characteristics protected under these laws. This includes race, age, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, disability, gender, and pregnancy. Those who do so are creating a hostile work environment which can affect one or all of their employees and their ability to work.
To better understand, below are a few examples of unfair treatment:
- Making or creating comments deemed offensive and too personal in nature.
- Defaming an employee's reputation through rumor spreading
- Paying female employees less than their male counterparts doing the same type of work because of their sex
- Denying an employee opportunities to advance or receive training opportunities because of their race or age.
- Taking adverse actions against an employee without a disciplinary process that is fair or warranted.
- Purposely laying off older employees to hire younger workers for less pay.
How You Can Handle UnLawful Workplace Actions Against You
If you or someone you know are the victims of unlawful workplace practices, consider the following tips to help you deal with the situation effectively while protecting your rights as an employee:
Documentation Is Everything
One of the most important elements in any case involving unlawful workplace practices is evidence. It's crucial you document everything you experienced that would be considered illegal or unfair. Even if you aren't sure it qualifies as discrimination or harassment, hold onto memos, emails, voicemails, and other documentation to prove you were treated unfairly.
Your attorney can use this information to negotiate a fair severance pay agreement if you want to leave your position. Also consider keeping a journal so you can write down abusive treatment that you feel needs to be addressed.
Report the Unfair Treatment
One of the most intimidating steps you must take when treated unfairly at work is to report what's happening to a supervisor or human resources manager. It's critical you overcome your anxiety and do this because it formalizes the complaint and may qualify you for whistleblower status. This means that you will be given protections that those who suffer workplace discrimination are afforded. For example, you can't be fired or laid off out of concern it would be perceived as retaliation against you for reporting the issue.
Ideally, it will also motivate the powers that be within your company to take the matter seriously and confront the issue. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case and working with a reputable workers' rights attorney is crucial.
Don't Post About Your Workplace on Social Media
It's understandable that you need to vent about your problems to relieve stress, but talking about your workplace mistreatment on social media is unwise. Even when you set a post for only friends to see, it may lead to one of them taking action against your employer through media posts, sharing your story, and other means. This could put your case in a bad position and make it tougher for your attorney to resolve your account.
Remember, when you post something on the internet that others can see, it can be used against you later.
Self-Care Is Crucial
The dread of going to work every day, knowing the mistreatment or harassment you might face again is traumatizing. Speak with your closest family members or therapist about what you're experiencing as well to help you process your feelings. If you experienced any form of criminal harm, such as sexual assault or physical abuse, report it to law enforcement right away to hold the perpetrator accountable. You don't have to have HR approval to prosecute someone for criminally assaulting you.
Whistleblower Laws May Not Protect You Completely
Despite being protected by whistleblower laws, this doesn't mean your employer won't retaliate against you anyway or at least make your work environment unbearable. You may want to keep your job but your company opts to let you go anyway or decide to not consider you for an upcoming promotion. This type of pressure is designed to make you give in to their unlawful workplace practices.
Remember that no matter what you do, capitulate or fight, document everything, and don't blame yourself for their actions. You've done everything you can and it may be time to get a qualified workers' rights attorney involved to help you move on to better opportunities without taking a major loss.
At Morgan & Morgan, we understand the time and love you poured into making your career a success. You shouldn't be forced to walk away empty-handed because of a co-worker or supervisor's bad behavior. Before you quit your job, speak with one of our attorneys about the compensation you may be able to recover to make the transition to a new workplace easier to navigate.