We all expect to be treated fairly and equitably at work. This not only means that we have a basic expectation of being treated with dignity and respect, but we also operate with the belief that all employees will be afforded opportunities for pay raises, promotions and other opportunities based on their job performance and fulfillment of job duties. However, it is a sad and unfortunate fact that not everyone is treated fairly or equitably in American workplaces.
As Los Angeles employment lawyers, we often see cases where people are treated poorly and unfairly because of who they are. Others are bullied or harassed in the workplace. While these instances might commonly occur in many workplaces, they are illegal. You do not have to tolerate or endure such unfair treatment in the workplace. You have legal rights and options.
What Constitutes Unfair Treatment?
It is illegal to harass or discriminate against someone because of so-called "protected characteristics" such as age, disability, pregnancy, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, religion, color, nationality and sex. It is illegal to engage in behavior that is harassing or discriminatory, which could create a hostile work environment, making it difficult for an employee to perform his or her job duties. Here are just a few examples of unfair treatment at work:
- Spreading rumors about an employee
- Passing up someone for a training opportunity or promotion because of someone's race, color, gender or other protected characteristic.
- Creating offensive comments, emails or social media posts about an employee.
- Demoting, transferring or dismissing an employee without a fair, disciplinary process.
- Paying women lower wages for doing the same job, because of their sex.
- Firing or laying off older workers so the company can hire younger, cheaper workers to do their jobs.
What Actions Can You Take?
If you are being treated unfairly in the workplace, there are a number of steps you can take in order to protect your rights:
Document the unfair treatment. It is crucial that you document the treatment you perceive to be illegal or unfair even if you are not sure if the treatment rises to the level of discrimination or harassment. Documentation typically includes any email messages, internal memo, office communications, voicemails, etc. It is important that you preserve this type of evidence that shows the unfair treatment. You may also be able to use this information as leverage in negotiating severance pay and terms of your severance agreement should you decide to quit or if you are fired. It would also help to write down anything you remember about instances of mistreatment. It is important to write it down as soon as possible when you remember details and specifics.
Report the unfair treatment. If you do intend to remain at your job, your attorney may advise you to report the unfair treatment to your company's Human Resources Department. This not only helps formalize your complaint, but also puts you under the "whistleblower" category. This means you will have rights similar to those of victims of discrimination.
Your employer cannot fire you or lay you off after you file a complaint because it gives the appearance of retaliation. So, essentially, filing a formal complaint not only gets the incidents of unfair treatment on the record, but it also helps protect you from further mistreatment or even wrongful termination. In addition, it might motivate your employer to take steps to address the unfair treatment, although that's not guaranteed.
Stay away from social media. The one thing you should absolutely stay away from doing is posting information about your unfair treatment on social media. It is perfectly understandable that unfair treatment is anger-inducing. However, it would behoove you to remain calm and collected. Blowing up online or on social media could end up putting you in a disadvantageous position.
Your employment attorney might even advise you to suspend your social media accounts until your case is resolved because attorneys for the other side might look for something on your social media accounts to justify a firing or use information to their advantage. Remember, anything you post on social media can be seen by others. Attorneys will often use what they find on social media against you and to their client's advantage.
Take care of yourself. Mistreatment or harassment at the workplace can be emotionally traumatizing. Self-care is very important during such a time. Talk to family members, your spiritual adviser and/or friends. If you believe the treatment at work may have been criminal, such as a physical or sexual assault, it is important that you report it to law enforcement right away so the responsible parties can be held accountable. If you can find support groups where you reside, it might be a good idea to share your feelings with such a group. Support groups are also helpful because they remind us that we are not alone and there are others who are dealing with similar issues.
Contact an experienced lawyer. If you have documented the treatment you perceive to be unfair, harassing or discriminatory, contact an experienced and knowledgeable employment attorney who can help you determine your goals and devise strategies to accomplish those goals. Is your goal to remain on the job for as long as possible? Do you want to leave your current job, but get the best possible severance pay and agreement? Do you want to change the culture in your workplace by filing a class action lawsuit along with other colleagues who have faced similar unfair treatment? The type of approach you take would depend on what you wish to accomplish.
The experienced Los Angeles employment attorneys at Kingsley & Kingsley have nearly four decades of experience helping individuals stand up and fight against unfair treatment at work. Be it sexual harassment, discrimination, wage and hour issues, or wrongful termination, we have the knowledge, experience and resources to fight on your behalf and help you secure maximum compensation for your losses. Our no-win-no-fee guarantee helps ensure that you won't pay any fees unless we recover compensation for you. Call us at 888-500-8469 to schedule your free consultation and comprehensive case evaluation. We are here to help you.