4 Steps to Take After Witnessing Discrimination at Work
Don't always assume it's nothing...
Workplace discrimination is more common than we think, even if you aren't the one who is facing direct discrimination in the workplace, it's important to know what to do and who to turn to when you witness any type of discrimination. Often times, there are clear signs that a co-worker could be facing blatant discrimination in the workplace, but it can be hard to take action if you are unsure what to do. Below are a few steps you can take, according to discrimination attorneys and legal experts in California.
Common Types of Discrimination
There are a lot of types of discrimination, but all can be grounds for a lawsuit, especially if there are witnesses, according to employment attorneys.
According to the EEOC, Age discrimination happens when a current employee or applicant is treated different because of their age. EEOC laws protect workers from age discrimination, The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects those over the age of 40, but unfortunately it does not protect those under 40.
Disability discrimination is when someone is treated less than or unfavorably because of a disability. This includes, harassment, lack of promotions, or firing. An employer is also supposed to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee with a disability.
Harassment can be seen in different situations. It is unwelcome remarks or actions against someone because of their sex, race, color, national origin, disability, or genetic information. Harassment becomes an issue when a work environment becomes hostile, or it is constant and severe.
Pregnancy discrimination can be seen before an applicant is hired, or action is taken against an employee because of their pregnancy. The PDA protects pregnant workers from discrimination and makes it illegal for employers to fire, demote or take negative action towards a pregnant employee.
1. Speak to the Person Affected
If you witness someone being mistreated at work, or if you believe that your employer is using illegal techniques, speak to your coworker. Keep in mind that they may not want to talk about it and they may not want to take action against the employer, but it's important to check on their well being before assuming any situation. Many times, a person may be afraid of speaking up if they are facing discrimination at work. Having someone to lean on may help them get the courage to report an incident.
2. Speak to a Supervisor
This will be on a case by case basis depending on what you witness. If the discrimination is being caused by another co-worker, you should speak to your supervisor and explain the situation. Even if what you witnessed was something small, it's important to raise a concern if you believe it could be something bigger. If you speak to your supervisor, they will keep an eye out and make sure to catch any type of mistreatment or comments.
3. Speak to Human Resources
If a supervisor is responsible for the harassment seen at work, you should visit your human resource department. They are responsible for any type of complaints, especially ones concerning discrimination. You can remain anonymous, and nothing you say should be used against you. Even if your claim is very small, human resources has to take it extremely seriously. They will keep an eye out, and should take action against the person causing the mistreatment.
4. Submit a Complaint to EEOC
Many companies may not be big enough to have a human resource department, in which case, you can turn to the EEOC for help. You can file the complaint on behalf of someone else, if you believe the situation has gotten out of hand and you have tried speaking to the highest ranking member of your company and/or the human resource department. You can file a complaint anonymously using the EEOC portal, which you can access here. You can call or even email. To read more about this process you can visit EEOC "how to file a charge" page.