Complaining about Discrimination in the Workplace

By Jack Tuckner, Esq.

My name is Jack Tuckner, and I’ve been representing employees, principally women, in employment related conflicts, challenges, controversies for more than 20 years. Here’s a tip that goes for anyone experiencing hostility in the workplace, discrimination, differential treatment. If things are bad at your job, there’s really one key to making it into something redemptive, to making it into something that you could look back on and say, “That was good. I taught my employer a lesson, and I moved on. It was progress in my life and I feel empowered;” as opposed to, “I feel victimized forever in the way that this all ended.”

What’s important to know in that key distinction of how to go from victimized forever to I taught my employer a lesson, I feel empowered and good about it, is one thing, notification. Giving your employer the opportunity to understand that you feel that you’re experiencing differential treatment and giving them the chance to fix it. But what the law requires is that notification. If you’re still employed, and I’m talking to people who are still working and suffering in a hostile work environment, is not to suffer quietly, wait ‘til you find another job and say, “I want to sue my employer now.” It’s too late then.

When you complain to your employer, what you have to do is tell your employer. When I say tell, you can tell, you can speak, you will speak, you will be interviewed about it, but make sure it’s all documented. Send emails. Send certified letters. Whatever it’ll take to make sure that they’re on notice of what you’re complaining about and that your documenting the steps that they’re taking to investigate your protected complaint. What makes it protected? You’re complaining about discrimination. Not just that your boss is a big jerk. There’s no law against big jerky bosses. There’s no law anywhere in the United States against bullying, believe it or not. None. So, it’s not about whether or not your job is the worst. It may well be. There’s no law against really bad jobs.

What there is a law against is if you’re being treated differently because of who you are as a woman, for example, because of your pregnancy. Anything related to your pregnancy, anything related to your maternity leave, anything related to lactation, that’s sexist discriminatory treatment. And it’s illegal. Anything related to your race, your color, your disability, your age, your religion–a number of categories of protected statuses–but it’s all part of the one right that we have, the right not to be discriminated against in the workplace.

So, what’s the one thing you need to know if you’re ever going to have a claim, if you’re ever going to hold your employer accountable? If you’re ever going to have them write you a check in terms of a severance agreement, or later on, if you happen to be fired and you do have a case and you do sue your employer, it is that provable notification, when you first gave your employer the awareness that you’re suffering some differential treatment, some degradation to the terms or the conditions, or the benefits or the privileges or the pay of your employment. If you’re paid less than someone doing comparable work, say a man and you’re a woman, that’s illegal gender pay disparity.

So, remember, they have to know about it, and you have to prove that they know about it. That’s how you hold their feet to the fire. That’s the big tip. Put it in writing and follow-up in writing. This is Jack Tuckner. If this video was helpful, please give it a like below and subscribe to this channel. If you have any questions about your workplace challenges or a loved one, feel free to give us a call or put the question down below, and I will answer it right here.