As our intuition is on point 99 percent of the time, we, as women, know when something is not quite right in both our professional and personal lives. Much to our detriment, our desires to not rock the boat, and/or refrain from any perception of confrontation, we tend to internalize negative issues at work instead of being vocal. It is imperative that all women, when faced with gender discriminatory practices, strategize regarding the best way to handle the situation. The first step is, of course, recognizing exactly what is happening and coming up with a plan on how to deal with it based upon in-house human resources options, legal options, and your desire for a favorable outcome. Unfortunately, if you choose to speak up, you must be prepared for any backlash and/or antagonism that may come from doing so. Always figure out your best angle. Are you in “survival” mode, only seeking to make the company “powers that be” aware of the discrimination, yet passive enough to not seek legal recourse because you want to keep your job, or are you planning on pursuing all avenues of recourse to the furthest extent of the law that may cause you to lose your job?
It is important that women understand fully that there are options in place if discrimination is believed to have taken place. Additionally, as provided by EqualRights.org, here are a few tips and things to consider doing if you think your rights as an employee have been violated:
1. Write Down What Happened: As soon as you experience discrimination, make note of it. Write down dates, places, people, times, and possible witnesses to what happened. If possible, ask your co-workers or colleagues to write down what they saw or heard, especially if the same thing is happening to them. Remember that others may (and probably will) read this written record at some point. It is a good idea to keep the record at home or in some other safe place. Do not keep the record at work.
2. Report the Incident(s) or Problem(s) to Your Employer: Wherever possible, you should consider reporting the sex discrimination or retaliation that you believe you are experiencing to your employer. Review your personnel manual and/or speak to human resources officer to find out if your employer has any written policies or procedures for complaining about discrimination.
3. Keep A Paper Trail: When you report the discrimination to your employer, do it in writing. Describe the problem and how you want it resolved. This creates a written record of when you complained and what happened in response to it. Keep copies of everything you send and receive from your employer, including emails, text messages, and voicemails.
4. Involve Your Union: If you belong to a union, you may want to file a formal grievance through the union and try to get a shop steward or other union official to help you navigate the grievance process. Get a copy of your union’s grievance policy and your collective bargaining agreement to see if they discuss the problems you are experiencing. Keep in mind that if you use your union’s grievance procedure, you must still file a complaint with a government agency if you want to file a lawsuit in federal or state court.
5. Request to Review Your Personnel File: It is your right to see and make a copy of your personnel file. In certain states including California, you also have the right to get a copy of every employment-related document that you have signed.
6. File a Discrimination Complaint with a Government Agency: If you want to file a lawsuit in federal or state court, you must first file a formal complaint (or “charge”) of discrimination with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or your state’s fair employment agency (in California, this is the Department of Fair Employment and Housing). (See Resources section for contact information.) If you are a federal employee, follow federal guidelines on how to lodge a discrimination complaint. You can obtain these guidelines from the Federal Labor Relations Authority at http://www.flra.gov/contact or (202) 218-7770.
7. Do Not Miss Deadlines with the EEOC or Other Government Agencies: Do not delay in filing a complaint against your employer with the appropriate state or federal agency! If you feel that your employer’s internal process for dealing with the discrimination will not or did not help you, do not wait to file a formal external complaint. This is very important. You cannot bring a lawsuit against your employer unless you have first filed a complaint of discrimination with the EEOC or your state fair employment agency. Under federal law (Title VII), you have 300 days from an act of discrimination to file a formal charge of discrimination with the EEOC. Under your state’s fair employment law, you may have as few as 180 days to file a charge. If you are a public employee, you may also have to adhere to notice requirements for filing suit against a public entity. Filing deadlines vary from state to state, so it is important to check with the EEOC or a legal organization to find out the time limits. It is important to note that any internal complaints you make to your employer will not extend these deadlines. Call Equal Rights Advocates or a lawyer to find out what you need to do and when.
8. File a Lawsuit: Most laws that prohibit sex discrimination do not allow you to go straight to court; generally, you have to file a formal discrimination charge with a federal or state agency before you can file a lawsuit in court. However, you may want to consider early on whether filing a lawsuit is something you would be willing to do. The remedies or relief you can seek in a lawsuit will vary, but may include money damages, getting your job back (if you’ve been fired or forced out on leave), and/or making your employer change its practices to prevent future discrimination from occurring.
Rashida Maples, Esq. is Founder and Managing Partner of J. Maples & Associates (www.jmaplesandassociates.com . She has practiced Entertainment, Real Estate and Small Business Law for 10 years, handling both transactional and litigation matters. Her clients include R&B Artists Bilal and Olivia, NFL Superstar Ray Lewis, Fashion Powerhouse Harlem’s Fashion Row and Hirschfeld Properties, LLC.
Boys Against Girls: The Only Advice You’ll Ever Need To Handle Gender Discrimination At Work was originally published on hellobeautiful.com
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