Workplace discrimination is a serious issue that disrupts the careers and livelihoods of countless Americans each year. There are numerous federally protected classes – age, race, color, sex, and religion, to only name a few – that are supposed to be shielded from discrimination at work. Yet there are still and likely will always be bad actors at work, whether they are coworkers, supervisors, or employers at the top of your company.
If you are subjected to discrimination at work, how can you prove it happened so you can file a strong discrimination claim in pursuit of justice and possibly compensation? It helps to start with tangible evidence, like company emails, recorded phone calls, and so forth. Depending purely on your word against the aggravator’s will create an uphill legal battle that can put you through a serious amount of stress without much promise of a payoff.
HOW HARD IS IT TO PROVE DISCRIMINATION IN THE WORKPLACE?
Discrimination can take many forms in the workplace. It can be manifested as always choosing someone of a certain class last for promotions, giving good leads to certain sales personnel of a certain class, or giving the least desirable shifts to people belonging to one class. In these ways, discrimination is usually subtle and hard to trace.
Bad actors know that they can land in serious legal trouble if they openly discriminate, so they rarely do. Instead, they take steps to cover up their wrongdoings in hopes that they can feign ignorance or a misunderstanding if they are ever caught. Due to the malicious and intentional nature of discriminatory parties, proving discrimination in the workplace can be extremely difficult.
You are advised to team up with an employment law attorney as soon as you suspect you are facing discrimination at work. With their guidance, they can help you look for and collect valuable pieces of evidence to use in your claim. For example, you might be instructed to flag any internal emails with what you suspect or know to be discrimination. Or you could save copies of your work schedule if you are consistently given undesirable shifts and you believe it is due to one of your protected classes. A successful workplace discrimination case is often slowly built up over time and backed by a lengthy paper trail.
HOW DO YOU PROVE A HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT?
A hostile work environment is one that makes a worker feel unsafe, unwelcome, or uncomfortable, especially when the bad actors should have reasonably known that their actions or conversations would make someone feel that way. Hostile work environments are usually one of the more easily identifiable forms of workplace discrimination since unacceptable behaviors are often out in the open. There might be several coworkers who like to tell inappropriate or sexually driven jokes. Or there could be a coworker who hangs racist images on their cubicle and argues that they can do so due to free speech.
To prove a hostile work environment, you need to save and record as much tangible evidence as you can, like company emails that include inappropriate humor. In some situations, you might even need to resort to recording interactions with coworkers, supervisors, or customers who make your work environment hostile. Depending on where you live, you might be legally required to tell the subject of your video footage that you are recording them if you want to use the footage as evidence in court later.
Again, an employment law attorney can be instrumental in starting and progressing a hostile work environment claim. They can tell you what evidence to start collecting and how they can use it later when filing your claim or challenging any defenses your employer puts up in response.