A recent poll in New Jersey found that reports of hearing discriminatory comments in the workplace have increased significantly in the past several years. The Star Ledger published an article this week about a poll conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University and commissioned by Taft Communications along with New Jersey Business and Industry Association. The article stated that there was “a disturbing trend involving the extent to which people report hearing comments in the workplace that could be seen as offensive to racial minorities, women, Muslims, Jews and those who are LGBTQ.” Link to the story: https://www.nj.com/opinion/2020/12/younger-workers-care-more-about-their-co-workers-poll-finds-thats-the-good-news-opinion.html
The poll found that 28% of people said over the past year they “very often” or “occasionally” heard things that could be considered offensive. That is up from 16% last year, and 19% in 2016. The takeaway from this poll is that although we would like to believe discrimination and harassment in the workplace rarely occurs any more, unfortunately, that is not the case. Here are five tips to help protect yourself if you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or harassment in the workplace.
1. Follow The Policy
Most workplaces have an anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy. If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or harassment, it is important that you carefully read that policy for several reasons. First, the policy will lay out the types of discrimination and harassment that are prohibited. There are certain “protected categories” for which a person cannot be discriminated against such as race, gender, disability and religion, among others. So, for example, it is illegal to discriminate against someone because of her gender, but not to discriminate against someone because they are a Cowboys’ fan. The policy will also let you know how, and to whom, to report the discrimination or harassment.
2. Document Your Concerns
If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination and harassment, it is very important to document your complaint. At some employers, the mantra is: if you did not report it, it must not have happened, or it wasn’t that bad. It is also important to document the discrimination and harassment complaint in writing. The best way is in a format where you have a record of the complaint, such as an email. Once you document the complaint, you should be protected from retaliation, because most companies have a policy that prohibits retaliation for filing a complaint. However, retaliation is still always a possibility.
3. Be Detailed And Specific In Your Complaint
If you feel you have been discriminated against or harassed because of a characteristic such as your gender, make sure you say in your complaint that you feel you have been discriminated against because of your gender. A lot of employers will not investigate your complaint as a gender discrimination complaint unless you say those specific words.
Also, if you are complaining about gender discrimination, the complaint should focus on that. Do not include the two-year feud you have been having with your coworker over the stapler. That only distracts from the discrimination.
4. Make Clear That You Want Something Done To Stop The Treatment
Unfortunately, some people complain about discrimination or harassment in the workplace, but then tell their employer they do not want them to tell anyone or do anything about it. If you tell your employer not to do anything, they probably won’t. Therefore, if you make a complaint, it is important that you do not tell your employer not to do anything, and insist that something be done to stop the conduct. Most anti-discrimination policies require the employer to conduct an investigation and take remedial measures after that investigation.
5. Talk To A Lawyer
If you feel you have been discriminated against or harassed you should talk to a lawyer to understand if what you have been subjected to violated the law. Employment discrimination laws are very complicated, and lawyers are specially trained to determine what is and is not illegal.
Workplace discrimination is an unfortunate reality that continues to exist even today. It is important that you take steps to protect yourself if you are a victim of discrimination or harassment.
– Drake P. Bearden, Jr., Partner at Costello & Mains, LLC
The attorneys at Costello & Mains have decades of experience handling matters like this. If you believe that you have suffered discrimination, please reach out to us. Most lawyers, including Costello & Mains, will provide a free initial consultation to discuss with you whether you should pursue a legal claim. You can call us at 856-291-0642 or visit our website https://www.costellomains.com to learn more.