The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, gender, disability, and other protected characteristics in the workplace, so why is employment discrimination still so widespread? You probably know someone who is relieved to be rid of their former job where bullying and harassment were part of the workplace culture, and anyone who complained about it only made themselves even more of a target. Harassment and other forms of discrimination in the workplace are able to persist largely because of retaliation, where employers make the situation worse for employees who speak up against the discrimination they have endured, sometimes sabotaging or threatening to sabotage the employees’ professional and personal lives. Do not let the fear of retaliation stop you from taking a stand against discrimination in your workplace, whether the harassment is directed at you or at other employees in your company. The sooner you contact the Minneapolis employment discrimination retaliation lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP, the better.
What is Employment Discrimination?
Employment discrimination can take many forms; it is almost any unjustified harmful action taken by an employer against an employee. The difference between discrimination and just plain being a jerk is that the employer singles out the employee as a target for unfair and malicious behavior because of a protected characteristic of the employee, not because of a particular action on the employee’s part. According to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, mistreatment of an employee is discrimination if it relates to any of the following characteristics of the employee:
- Race, color, or ethnic origin
- Sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation
- Age (40 or older)
- Religion or lack of religious affiliation
- Marital status, pregnancy, or role as a caregiver to children
- Disability, whether it results from a traumatic injury, a physical illness, or a mental illness
Besides these protected categories specified by federal law, the Minnesota Human Rights Act includes two additional categories under which it protects workers from employment discrimination. Employers cannot discriminate against you if you are a current or former recipient of public assistance or if you have participated in a local human rights commission.
The following are examples of discriminatory actions taken by employers:
- Refusing to hire the employee
- Denying the employee a promotion or pay raise for which they are eligible
- Negative performance reviews stating false or unfair reasons or no reasons at all
- Unfairly negative references by a former employer to new jobs for which the former employee has applied
- Increased interference with or monitoring of the employee while they work
- Filing, or threatening to file, a civil or criminal case against the employee
- Threats of any kind, work-related or otherwise, against the employee
- Harassment and bullying, including but not limited to derogatory comments made to the employee or in the employee’s presence, about a protected group to which the employee belongs
Legal Remedies Available to Victims of Workplace Discrimination
You have the right to reject workplace harassment and discrimination against you or any other employee of your workplace. The first step to stopping harassment and other forms of discrimination is sometimes to talk directly to the person doing it; sometimes all it takes to stop a bully is to let them know that you are not afraid of them. If that does not work, or if the person’s behavior is sufficiently aggressive and intimidating that you do not feel comfortable talking to them about it directly, then you should discuss the problem with your direct supervisor or the human resources office at your company. If your employer is not able to resolve the problem through an internal process, you can file a formal internal or external complaint, and the next step if that does not stop the discrimination, is to file an employment discrimination lawsuit against your employer.
The sooner you start working with an employment lawyer on your employment discrimination case, the better. Your lawyer can advise you on what to document and what to say at every stage of the process. If you wait to hire a lawyer until you have exhausted all possibilities except a lawsuit, you may have had to go through undue stress and expense that working with a lawyer could have prevented.
When Employers Retaliate Against Employees Who Take Action Against Discrimination
Federal and state law prohibit retaliation against employees as a response to discrimination complaints. Under Minnesota law, your employer may not retaliate against you because you have filed a discrimination complaint or participated in an investigation about discrimination. Your employer also cannot penalize you for your relationships (including family relationships, friendships, and romantic partnerships) with people who belong to protected categories.
If your employer takes your concerns about workplace harassment and discrimination seriously, then you have avoided the worst-case scenario. Employers often act as though the discrimination is the employee’s fault or that the employee is making things worse by complaining. Employers often retaliate against employees who speak up about workplace harassment, either by making the harassment worse, by firing the employee or threatening to, or by sabotaging the employee’s future employment prospects.
If your employer retaliated against you after you complained about discrimination in your workplace or requested a reasonable accommodation for a disability, you have grounds for a discrimination lawsuit. Your employer may deny that the termination of your employment was related to your discrimination complaint, but you have the evidence, and your employment discrimination lawyer can help you present it so clearly that your employer cannot deny it.
Retaliation for Reasons Other Than Discrimination
The law protects employees who experienced retaliation after complaining of discrimination or requesting a reasonable accommodation for a disability, but a different law protects a different circumstance under which retaliation sometimes occurs. If the retaliation you experienced was because you spoke out against illegal and unethical behavior by your employer, then you might be covered under the laws that protect whistleblowers. Whether they are exposing illegal and unethical actions by private sector or public sector employers, whistleblowers have the right to legal and financial protection, so that they can stop their employers from doing more harm than they have already done.
Contact a Minneapolis Discrimination Complaint Retaliation Lawyer
Do not let your employer stop you from telling the truth about workplace harassment and discrimination by retaliating against you or threatening to fire you or ruin your career. Discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion, age, and disability are against the law, and the sooner you speak up about workplace harassment and discrimination, the sooner it stops being the norm in workplaces across Minnesota, and an employment lawyer can help. Contact the Minneapolis employment discrimination and workplace harassment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP to set up a consultation.