Discrimination in the workplace is not only upsetting and immoral; it is also illegal. If you experienced discrimination by an employer, supervisor, or co-workers based on your gender, age, race, religion, or another protected class, you could file a lawsuit. You may qualify for damages such as lost benefits, emotional distress, back pay, and others.
Discrimination lawsuits can be complex and involve state and federal laws. If you do not know what you should do with discrimination at work, we can help. If you suffered ill-treatment at work, talking to our experienced and compassionate legal team can help you clarify your legal options. Morgan & Morgan is committed to fighting discrimination and helping victims get justice. Contact us now for free advice and help.
What Counts as Discrimination at Work?
According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), discrimination in the workplace is illegal. Unlawful discrimination occurs when a person is discriminated against due to their:
- Marital status
- National Origin
- Sexual orientation and gender identity
- Genetic information
There can also be other types of discrimination, such as unequal pay and retaliation by an employer. Discrimination at work is a growing problem in the US despite state and federal laws targeting the issue. In 2020 alone, more than 67,000 workplace discrimination charges were filed, according to the EEOC. Retaliation is by far the most common reason for filing a discrimination complaint.
Examples of Illegal Discrimination
Discrimination can be subtle or involve more obvious actions such as name-calling and outright hostility. Common cases of discrimination at work involve:
Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1981, and individual states’ laws make discrimination based on race illegal. Race discrimination can come in many forms, such as:
- Denying a promotion or raise
- Hostile work environment and harassment
- Racial slurs or derogatory remarks
- Wrongful termination
- Denial of benefits other employees enjoy
- Denying job assignments
It is important to note that illegal discriminatory acts could be committed by a supervisor, co-worker, or even a customer of the workplace.
Retaliation by an employer can include demotion, a cut in pay, wrongful termination, and similar retaliatory acts. By law, an employer cannot retaliate against any employee who made a discrimination complaint or assisted with a complaint. However, in many cases, retaliation can be tricky to prove. For example, in at-will states, employers can fire employees without having to provide a reason. This can leave employees scrambling to find evidence that their firing was a retaliatory act. Consider speaking to an employment attorney to understand your rights and options.
Discriminating against another sex in the workplace can include, among other acts:
- Being denied equal pay
- Sexual harassment
- Being denied promotions, benefits, or pay rises
A one-off incident such as an inappropriate joke or name-calling may not count as illegal harassment. However, if harassment becomes a condition of continued employment or is severe enough to create a hostile and toxic work environment, you could have a case.
Other Examples of Discrimination
Discrimination is unacceptable, and you do not have to stand for it. There are many different ways in which individuals could be discriminated against in the workplace based on their disability, religion, age, pregnancy, and for other reasons. Therefore, if you are unsure what you should do with discrimination at work, seek advice from an employment attorney as soon as you can.
How an Employment Lawyer Can Help
Fighting discrimination can be challenging. Depending on your specific situation and employer, you might have to stand up against a corporation with a team of lawyers on retainer fighting employment cases. While employers generally know how to handle discrimination claims, employees may not have the knowledge, confidence, or resources to do so. Do not let this stand in the way of demanding equal treatment and justice.
An employment attorney can handle your case from beginning to end, protect your legal rights, and fight for your best interests by:
- Providing counsel for your specific situation
- Determining whether you have a case
- Filing a lawsuit
- Gathering the relevant evidence to prove your case
- Presenting your case strongly at court
- Negotiating a fair settlement
What You Can Do
You can help progress your discrimination case by diligently collecting evidence proving illegal discrimination at your workplace. This can include gathering witnesses’ statements, requesting certain documents from your employer, and assessing your workplace’s policies with regard to discrimination procedures. You may even unearth previous claims of discrimination at your work. You can also file a charge with the EEOC and your relevant state agency, if applicable.
Do Not Wait With Filing a Discrimination Case
The timeline for filing a charge and pursuing justice can be prohibitively short with discrimination claims. Therefore, timely action is critical. You generally only have 180 days from the day the discrimination happened to file a claim with the EEOC, the federal agency responsible for workplace discrimination. There may also be other deadlines if you are planning to file your case with the relevant state agency.
While the EEOC deadline can potentially be extended to 300 days, depending on your state’s discrimination laws, you should take action to protect your rights immediately after you experienced discrimination. Consulting with an employment attorney can be an excellent first step if you do not know where to turn. Your attorney can ensure that you meet all vital deadlines. If you wait too long to get started, you could lose your right to pursue damages from an employer.
Damages You Could Recover
Employees who experienced illegal discrimination could qualify for various damages, such as:
- Back pay for wages, overtime, tips, commission, and vacation time
- Compensation for emotional distress, embarrassment, and humiliation
- Compensation for attorney’s fees and court costs
- Costs for retraining and expenses connected to finding new employment
- Punitive damages
You could also be entitled to additional awards, such as restoring benefits, salary adjustments, and reinstatement. An employment attorney from our firm can assess your case and advise you on which damages to seek in your individual circumstances.