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How to complain about employment discrimination

November 16, 2022

If you think you’ve suffered employment discrimination, harassment, or hostile work environment at your job, before you file a complaint against your company, you need to find clarity in your allegations.   This is important because if you’re claiming discrimination, federal law places the burden on you, not the employer, to prove what you’re saying is true.  Mere speculation is not enough to prove workplace discrimination.  You will need to create a detailed timeline of events, document any comments and who said the comments, have available evidence of bad actions, and when possible also have witnesses who are willing to provide statements about the bad actions you experienced.

Before accusing your employer of discrimination, make sure you understand what “discrimination” means and how it applies in the context of your job.  Generally, employment discrimination means to treat a person differently, or less favorably, based on their protected class.

Where should you start?

Write down a timeline of events

The first place to start with a discrimination complaint is your timeline of events.  If discrimination happened, when did it occur?  Specifically, who did what to discriminate against you?   You will need to get clear and have available a detailed set of facts to establish that discrimination happened.  You must also determine if the discrimination is based on your protected class.  Your protected class can be a number of things, but most commonly employees complain of discrimination based on race, color, age, disability, religion, gender and/or gender identity.  Employees also complain of sexual harassment and retaliation (punishment) for complaining of unlawful discrimination.

Notify your employer of the discrimination

Once you have sorted out the facts to support your allegations, you should understand that you must notify your employer of the discrimination.  Why?  It’s simple.  How can an employer investigate and remedy discrimination if they don’t know it’s happened?  You shouldn’t expect the employer to read your mind.  You must clearly articulate that you believe discrimination occurred in the workplace and why.  The employer then has a duty to investigate your complaint.  Don’t be surprised if the employer disagrees with your allegations.  It’s very common for employers to disagree with accusations of employment discrimination, and after investigation find that no discrimination occurred. 

Escalate your complaint to the EEOC

After you’re clear on your allegations and you notify your job of your complaints, consider filing a charge of discrimination with the federal agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the “EEOC”) or your local state agency.  Understand that there are strict deadlines for filing your EEOC Charge of Discrimination.  Depending on the state you work in, the deadlines can be as early as 180 days after the discrimination occurred or as late as 300 days after the discrimination occurs.  Find out how much time you have to file by looking at your timeline, and remember to update your timeline if new events arise.

If you are an employee filing an EEOC charge of discrimination or an employer defending an EEOC charge of discrimination, Pietrucha Law Firm provides legal representation to those exclusively dealing with employment-litigation disputes.  Book a consultation to better understand your rights and responsibilities at www.pietruchalaw.com  

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