If you think you are being discriminated against at work, you need to act quickly in order to preserve your rights and claims for discrimination under federal anti-discrimination statutes. Deadlines for filing claims and/or lawsuits vary based on the type of discrimination and the laws on which your claims are based. Many types of discrimination cases require filing a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In those cases, an EEOC charge must be filed typically within 180 days. So, contacting an employment law attorney as soon as possible is important. Meanwhile, there are some steps you can take to help preserve your claims and prepare for litigation.
Keep a Diary
If you aren't already, begin taking notes of all the things that have happened at work that you believe are a result of discrimination. Be as specific as possible, including date and time and the identities of individuals involved. If you can go back and make notes about prior incidents, that is helpful as well. Notes can be very important when it comes time to remember details and organize a timeline of events for your attorney.
Gather Relevant Employment Records
Although you cannot remove privileged or sensitive information regarding trade secrets or client information from your place of employment, any disciplinary documents, pay stubs, employee handbooks, emails, etc. that were given to you during your employment can be helpful in analyzing and proving your case. However, first check your employee handbook or any confidentiality agreement you may have signed to make sure you are not violating any policies by taking these documents. If you are unsure, it is better to ask your employment law attorney what is acceptable to copy or remove from the workplace.
Continue to Be a Model Employee
You should not be engaging in conduct that will result in discipline anyway, but it is even more critical that you do not give your employer any legitimate reason to discipline you. If you are ultimately terminated, and your employer had a legitimate reason like poor performance or attendance issues, the value of your claim of discrimination will decrease dramatically.
Pay Attention to Similar Complaints from Co-Workers
If your employer is discriminating, it is likely that you are not the only one being affected. If you hear of similar complaints from other employees, that evidence of a history or pattern of discrimination in the workplace is valuable to your claim. Those other complaints will also serve to bolster your claims.
Follow the Company Policy and Report the Discrimination
Many companies have what is known as an "open door" policy, meaning that you are encouraged to report concerns you have to any member of management or Human Resources. Especially if you are suffering from workplace harassment, be sure to obtain and follow the company's anti-harassment policy, if there is one in place. It is best to submit your internal complaint in writing and retain a copy for your records.
Consult an Employment Law Attorney
Unlike some types of legal issues, employment discrimination is a complex area of the law that requires strict adherence to legal procedure and numerous deadlines that cannot be missed. The steps you take from the very beginning can mean the difference between having a successful claim and losing your rights as an employee. Every discrimination claim is different and consulting an experienced employment law attorney to assist you in preparing your claim and protecting your rights is a wise decision.