Unlawful workplace discrimination comes in many forms and can be distressing and challenging. Federal and North Carolina laws protect employees from certain forms of discrimination, and there are specific steps to exercise those rights. Employers may treat employees differently for lawful reasons, but employers may give lawful reasons as a pretext to cover discriminatory conduct. Recognizing unlawful discrimination and facts that support a claim is essential to asserting your protected rights.
1. Recognizing Employment Discrimination
When considering legal action, you should first consider whether what you’re experiencing is actionable discrimination. North Carolina prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating based on race, religion, color, national origin, age, sex, or handicap. Federal anti-discrimination protections are similar but include protections based on “disability.” Pregnancy is also a protected status. Protections against employment discrimination can extend to job advertisements and the hiring process. If you believe you have faced any form of discrimination on these grounds, you can move to the next step.
2. Documenting Conduct
Small incidents viewed as a whole can support allegations of discriminatory intent. Documentation created in and around the time events occur can be credible evidence supporting allegations of discrimination. To create timely, concurrent records of conduct you believe is discriminatory:
- Document the date, time, location, and the people involved.
- Identify witnesses by first and last name.
- Describe the conduct in detail.
- Note if the conduct was in response to your assertion of rights.
- Record the impact it had on you.
- Preserve related documentation.
- State whether and how you addressed it with the employer.
- Report the employer’s response or lack thereof.
Emails, texts, or any written communication may be critical evidence of employment discrimination. When possible, create copies or summaries of such records, even if potentially offensive conduct is relatively minor.
3. Report to Your Employer
Always report any allegations of discrimination to your employer’s HR Department or HR Manager. Most employers may have procedures in place to address such concerns, and failing to utilize established procedures may undercut allegations of intentional conduct on the part of the employer. When reporting:
- Follow the protocol outlined in your employee handbook or manual.
- Submit your complaint in writing and ask that a copy be placed in your personnel file.
- Keep copies of any correspondence about the incident.
4. Filing with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
If your employer doesn’t address the alleged discrimination appropriately or if you face retaliation for reporting it, you can file a charge with the EEOC. The EEOC reviews and investigates charges of employment discrimination under applicable law, and the time for filing a charge is 180 days from the discriminatory act. This runs from the time the employee learns of or has notice of a negative employment action and may not be extended by an employer’s appeals process.
5. Consider Legal Representation
If you want to consult with an attorney about your allegations or want to discuss legal representation, you can contact Anderson Jones. Our attorneys can address your employment law questions and advise or represent you in a charge or other action.
What Types of Proof Are Useful in Discrimination Cases?
- Direct Evidence: Any statement or writing that expresses an intent to discriminate. This is uncommon, as most people do not openly state an intent to discriminate.
- Circumstantial Evidence: It is the most common and consists of a compilation of individual acts that together demonstrate discriminatory intent.
- Documentary Evidence: All written communications or reports that can back up your claims.
- Retaliatory Actions: Negative actions taken after reports of discrimination or supporting the claim of another.
- Denying an Accommodation: Refusal to accommodate a request grounded in protected classifications like disability, pregnancy, or religion.
- Disparate Treatment: Showing that you were treated differently than others based on protected classifications.
- Disparate Impact: Policies that appear neutral but disproportionately affect members of a protected classification.
- Statistical Evidence: In larger companies, if there is a pattern of discrimination, statistical data can help illustrate the issue.
- Testimonial Evidence: Witnesses who can validate your claims or share their experiences can be beneficial.
Addressing workplace discrimination may not require legal action, but damages may be available for significant negative employment actions. Discussing your concerns with an attorney should help you evaluate your options. Our firm offers support, guidance, and can take action to protect your rights.
Get to Know Your Rights
If you or someone you know has faced workplace discrimination in North Carolina, reach out, and contact Anderson Jones today. Together, we can assert your rights and challenge discriminatory practices.