Workplace discrimination can affect your life and career, and it’s not something you should just let go. If you believe that you have been discriminated against in the workplace, it is important to know your rights, how to file a complaint, and when to retain an employment discrimination lawyer in Jackson County, Missouri.
What Is Workplace Discrimination?
Let’s begin with the basics: have you been discriminated against? Workplace discrimination is any unfair treatment of an employee or job applicant based on their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. Discrimination can take many forms, including the following (and more):
- Hiring discrimination
- Firing discrimination
- Wage discrimination
- Discrimination in promotions
- Discrimination in training opportunities
- Harassment (creating a hostile work environment in any way)
First Steps: Addressing the Issue With Your Employer
Before escalating your claim to a government agency or a lawsuit, you must address the issue within your workplace. Follow the process outlined in your company’s handbook for handling discrimination and then maintain records of all your communication with the company on this issue. All this will help enormously when you file a claim with the federal or state government, and even more if you have to file a lawsuit.
What Federal Laws Apply?
You are protected by numerous federal laws, and, in many cases, you will pursue your discrimination claim with a federal agency. Some federal laws that protect all employees from discrimination include:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: This law prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA): This law prohibits discrimination against employees who are 40 years of age or older
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): This law prohibits discrimination against employees with disabilities
- The Equal Pay Act of 1963: This law prohibits discrimination in pay based on sex
- The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA): This law prohibits discrimination based on genetic information
How to File a Complaint With the EEOC
If you believe that you have been discriminated against in the workplace, you can usually file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). To file a complaint with the EEOC, you will need to provide:
- Your name and contact information
- The name and contact information of your employer
- The date of the discriminatory act
- A description of the discriminatory act
- Any other relevant information
What Happens Next?
The EEOC will investigate your complaint and determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred. If the EEOC finds reasonable cause, it will try to resolve the complaint through mediation. If mediation is unsuccessful, the EEOC may issue you a notice that you have the right to sue.
Missouri State Laws
The Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA) is similar to the federal laws above, but it does expand protections in some cases. It prohibits discrimination in employment based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, genetic information, marital status, familial status, or sexual orientation. The MHRA also prohibits discrimination in housing, public accommodations, and credit.
If you believe that you have been discriminated against in violation of the MHRA, you can file a complaint with the Missouri Department of Labor.
How to File a Complaint
To file a complaint with the state, remember to get started within at least 180 days of the date of the discriminatory act. You can file a complaint online, by mail, or by phone. You’ll need all the same information as listed above for filing a federal complaint.
The process will be much the same at that point: the state agency will investigate your complaint and determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred. If they find reasonable cause, they will try to resolve the complaint through mediation.
How Do State and Federal Agencies Investigate a Complaint?
The agency will first determine whether the complaint falls within its jurisdiction. If the complaint does fall within the agency’s jurisdiction, the agency will then investigate. The investigation will typically include interviews with you, your employer, and any witnesses. The agency will also review any relevant documents that you (or your employer) provide.
Once the investigation is complete, the agency will issue a determination. The determination may be that the complaint is unfounded, that there is reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred, or that there is no reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred. If the agency finds reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred, the agency will normally attempt to first resolve the complaint through mediation.
Factors That Are Considered
When looking into your claim, the agency in question will usually consider all the following:
Do you have a history of making false complaints, or do you have a reputation for honesty in the community? What do your workmates have to say about you? Do workplace evaluations show you’ve always had good performance and reviews, or do they show a history of poor performance and complaints? All these things will be considered.
Your Employer’s Credibility
Have any discrimination complaints been made against your employer before, or do they have a good reputation in the community and among their employees? If they’ve ever been claimed against before, what was the outcome? Have they kept good records? Can they give a compelling reason for treating you the way you’ve been treated, or are they grasping at straws to justify it?
The evidence will include the testimony of all the people involved, including any witnesses. Evidence can also include paper trails, forms of all kinds, internal business policies, and even tax forms, job applications, video footage, and more.
The Applicable Law
Crucially, the agency involved will need to look at how the laws are worded and make a judgment about whether your claim fits within the law.
Policies and Procedures of Your Employer
Every business should have written policies. These will be evaluated, and the investigating agency will also look to see if your employer was actually following policy when they engaged in the alleged discrimination. In some cases, discrimination is “built in” to the very fabric of a company and needs to be eradicated. In others, a rogue manager or other entity is operating in violation of policy.
The Impact on You
Finally, the investigating agency will consider how the discrimination has impacted you. This will determine the seriousness of the complaint.
The process of investigating a complaint of discrimination, as you can see, can be complex and time-consuming. However, if you have been discriminated against, you should not hesitate to file a complaint. You should also not hesitate to contact a lawyer to find out more about your rights and the process.
What Are Your Options If Your Complaint Is Not Resolved?
If your complaint is not resolved by the agency, you may be able to file a lawsuit on your own: but whether you’ve been given notice of a right to sue or just been given the run-around, contact an employment discrimination lawyer. An attorney can help you understand your rights and options and can represent you in court if necessary.
Navigate the Claims Process With an Experienced Employment Discrimination Lawyer in Jackson County, Missouri
If you’ve been discriminated against at work, don’t allow it to go unaddressed. It takes courage to report discrimination in many cases, but the effort is worth it. For help at any stage, contact us at Holman Schiavone, LLC right away.