It is a disturbing reality that some protected classes of employees will find themselves in a discriminatory or harassing situation at some point in their career. Even more distressing is that the offender may even be a supervisor or manager. Fortunately, we as a society have gone to great lengths combating bias in the workplace in the effort to create an equal and fair environment. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always prevent incidences from occurring, even in some of the most progressive work environments. The truth is that people will sometimes act on their own ill conceived notions and beliefs, despite a company’s best intentions.
These transgressions can range in severity but in no form are they acceptable or tolerable in any workplace. Should you ever find yourself in a situation at work where you feel you are being discriminated against, it is vital that you report these negative actions to your company’s appropriate department and initiate the internal response to such allegations. Also, depending on certain factors, regulation of fair and equal workplace conditions may be handled by governmental agencies such as the “EEOC” (Equal Employment Opportunities Commission) and the “TWC” (Texas Workforce Commission). Depending on your situation, it may be prudent to contact an outside agency, even while still employed.
However, in some situations, merely reporting an incident will not be enough to stop the harassment and in fact can sometimes escalate it in the form of retaliation. Defined, illegal retaliation is any harassment, demotion, or termination in response to a reported claim, whether internal or to a regulating agency. In short, it is a campaign taken to generally make your work life a living hell with the intention of “punishing” you until either you voluntarily quit, or you provide them with any reason for your termination.
Retaliation can be cunning, making it difficult to prove these transgressions when the time comes. Therefore, it is very important that if you feel you are being retaliated against, you take extra steps to insure that 1) you protect yourself by creating a paper trail and documenting important actions, communications, and events and 2) you take care to comport yourself as you would under normal circumstances despite the adversity.
First and foremost, you must be pre-emptive and protect yourself from the very beginning. When filing the complaint with the necessary department, do so in writing. Write an email or type a letter to the HR representative and file a copy away for your own records. If you need to verbally communicate, make sure to follow up with an e-mail or letter that rehashes the conversation and memorializes it in writing. It is equally as important that you document and save any responses from the HR representative or a supervisor as these responses can provide some of the strongest validation for your claims. If you dot your I’s and cross your T’s, you will be prepared if an HR representative doesn’t handle the situation properly or properly commence corrective action. Equally as important, should you face a campaign of retaliation, you will have a road map of evidence, leading from the initiating incident up until whatever conclusive destination you reach.
So you have filed your complaint and begun recording the resulting events. Now what do you do? To start, once you have filed your complaint, be vigilant for any retaliation that may present itself. Retaliation can range in severity from continuing harassment, employers “keeping book” of your mistakes, relocation, demotions, being passed over for promotions, alienation, up through outright termination. If you begin experiencing any of these actions, or any others you feel are retaliatory, be strong; the offender prefers you are reactionary and their ultimate intention is to build a case for your termination. Being terminated is not the worst thing that can happen; being terminated without sufficient evidence to prove any transgressions may be. Therefore, though it may be difficult under such persecution, as an employee it is vital that you conduct yourself in the best manner possible. You do not want to help your employer build their case against you; rather you should be building your case against them. When an employer makes an unreasonable demand, document it! Save questionable e-mails but respond as if no offense is taken. Should an employer overload you with work volume, make your best attempt to complete the work, but be vocal about short comings. For things like demotions and relocations, roll with them, but report your concerns to HR. Continuing to report these occurrences to your HR department will demonstrate that you are making your best attempt to comply in spite of your situation. Your goal is to conduct yourself as the model employee while demonstrating the harassment and unfair treatment you are experiencing.
In short, the above information is presented to help convey a sense of what retaliation is, and how it should initially be dealt with. However, if you find yourself in a circumstance similar to what is outlined above, even if you are on the fence, contact an attorney. The above is a general guideline but no set of facts pertaining to a workplace claim is ever the same and it is thereby impossible to outline what you should do in every situation. Rather, an attorney can evaluate your particular circumstance and provide tailor fitted advice to guide you through up to and including representation should civil litigation become necessary. The attorneys here at Fears|Nachawati Law Firm specialize in employment related claims and will be happy to consult with you regarding your particular situation.
Please give us a call at (214) 890-0711 to consult with an attorney today!