How to Know You’re Being Discriminated Against and What To Do About It

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Discrimination is a very serious and needs to be taken care of immediately. In order to stop discrimination, we need to recognize what it looks like, what it doesn’t look like, and what to do when we are facing it. Discrimination is a legal matter and this post is not intended to provide any legal advice. Be certain to consult with an attorney if you believe you have been or are being discriminated against in the workplace.

If you’re a happy/optimistic person, you may see the negativity from others as a reflection of their struggles, not realizing that this someone is being discriminative. Here are some signs that someone is a little more than negative and is blatantly discriminating against you:

1. They “joke” about your race, gender, orientation, age, or features 

If you’re finding yourself to be the butt of jokes to your manager or colleagues, you need to take the issue up with the person making the jokes directly. If the problem persists, take it to your HR department or the head of your company. Nowhere in the workplace is it appropriate to make jokes that are damaging to you or your features. If you have a standing relationship with your colleagues outside of work where playful banter is omnipresent, you may want to let your colleagues know that you’d rather keep your jokes out of work.

If those jokes are not a part of your overall relationship with your colleagues, be sure to take note of them and tell your superiors. It may not be due to discrimination, but it could lead to further harm. Ensure that you notify someone, and you may be able to take legal action (more on this later).

2. It’s raining stereotypes

If your manager makes constant references to your culture that could be demeaning (unlike sincere questions about your culture, or overall innocent questions posed by someone without any idea of what your culture is like), you need to take note of these offenses and present them to your employer as soon as possible. Demeaning comments about your nationality, ethnicity, or previous location is not acceptable anywhere in the workplace.

3. Caught Up

Another form of discrimination is if you find yourself getting caught in traps, such as being asked personal questions that could put you in a bad situation.

“Do you ever text while driving?”
“Do you smoke on your time off?”
“So what do you think of our boss? He sucks, right?”

These colleagues or managers could be looking for ways of getting you in trouble. Steer clear of questions with no right answers, leaving your stuff around (could be used for framing), doing something questionable at work (they could be filming you or getting ready to tell your boss that you did it), or participating in even slightly offensive jokes. This type of discrimination seeks to defame you and get you fired.

4. We’ll promote you “next year”

If your manager never hints at a promotion or dismisses you when you bring up your growth within the company, you may be facing discrimination. Assuming that you’re doing everything you should to be promoted, you need to take this case up to the head of your company. State your case to them and let them know everything about the situation. Having records indicating that such behavior has gone on can only help your case.

5. XOXO Gossip Girl 

There is never an acceptable reason for your manager or colleague to be gossiping about you. Take note of all the gossip you’ve actually heard or have heard from others who have told you about the gossip. Sometimes, it’s not the wisest idea to confront those gossiping about you, as something could go awry, and you may get in trouble for confronting them. If the issue persists, again, contact the head of your company or employer or follow the company’s harassment policy.

6. Budget cuts seem to effect you first

Of course, payroll can have errors, and that is why you’re encouraged to calculate that you’ve received the accurate amount of pay you deserve. However, if you’ve been shorted on pay a few times, you need to take it up with your employer (pay stubs in hand). It’s most likely that someone is shorting you on pay for discriminatory reasons if they’ve done other discriminatory activities before, so have all the evidence possible to present your case.

7. Bye, Bye, Bye

If you were fired and can’t think of any reason why, received a false or blatant bias reason why, this is unlawful termination. We recommend legal action, see below for how to properly file discrimination suit.

What Now?

If you’ve experienced discrimination you can to do the following:

1. Document all accounts in which you believe you were discriminated against. Even if you’re uncertain whether it was truly discriminatory, write it down. You do not have to include the issue in your report of the discrimination, but it’s good to take thorough notes, just in case that small incident played a bigger role than you know.

2. Immediately report to your employer of any issues, whether big or small. Your case will be stronger if your superiors are notified of the issues beforehand, and they may be able to stop the problem in its tracks, before any more discrimination takes place.

3. Refer to your company’s harassment policy, if applicable. The policy will outline what to do if you believe you were discriminated against or harassed based on your qualities. You could create a larger issue if you don’t follow the proper procedures, or lose your credibility.

4. Research your rights as an employee, as these vary by state. You may realize that you were discriminated against in other ways or you may be owed things you weren’t aware of.

5. Get a lawyer. You need someone who knows the law and will represent you in court. If this is against a very large company, you will definitely need someone on your side.

Don’t be messy! 

Discrimination can be intimidating, because you may not want to lose your job or begin to feel sorry for the person discriminating against you. Whatever the case may be, discrimination is discrimination and must be taken care of dutifully and properly. Here’s what not to do:

1. Do not wait to report the issues. You have 180 days following the incident to sue your employer based on EEOC guidelines. So if you’re fired in March, you basically have half a year to write to the court about your case in order to attain permission to sue. After that, you’ll only have 90 days to take them to court. Again, get a lawyer!

2. Do not take your issue to social media. If you attempt to defame your employer or discuss any events of your case publicly, you can seriously harm your case. By “outing” your employer, you can be charged with defamation, countersued, or get the whole case thrown out.

3. Do not listen to or participate in the office chatter. Your colleagues may be your best friends, but they don’t know the entirety of the situation, or necessarily have your vest interest at heart. It may be interesting to hear  the latest news, but it can sometimes do more harm than good. Unless they are willing to file a report against the business along with you, never trust secondhand news. It does nothing for your lawyer nor does it help your case unless those who are mentioning it to you are willing to testify. It’s best to just move on.

4. Don’t let your discrimination fall through the cracks. If you were wrongfully fired, weren’t promoted or demoted for the wrong reasons, or you’re not seeing the opportunities you deserve, don’t ignore these issues! It’s your civil duty to report any wrongdoings within the company. You are entitled to certain rights as a human, and especially as an employee. If you don’t take the issue up with your superiors or those in authority, you are taking part in allowing the injustice to continue. Never pardon injustice. Ever.

Discrimination is prevalent still in the workplace; it’s your job to ensure that you’re fighting against it if you believe it’s happening to you. This is not something that your colleagues can take care of, nor something you can take care of for your colleagues. Be certain to carefully follow the harassment policy, attain a lawyer, and fight the injustice. We’re rooting for you!

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