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Discrimination on the job and how to handle it

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According to Federal law, companies are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of race, gender, pregnancy, national origin, religion, disability, citizenship status and age. State and local laws may differ on discrimination regarding weight, sexual orientation and other forms of prejudice. If you have been or are a victim of discrimination in the workplace there are certain steps you can take, both individually and legally, in order to ensure that your rights are protected.

First, report any discrimination of any kind to the human resources department at your place of employment. This will not only give your employer an opportunity to dispel the discrimination amicably, but will also show a record of complaints you have filed in case you do decide to bring a lawsuit against the company in question.

Second, save any and all evidence that may prove beneficial to your case. This includes any e-mail, letters, memos, post-it notes, or voice messages that show you are a victim of prejudice.

Lastly, if you and your employer are not able to come to a reasonable understanding or a respectable agreement regarding your concerns of discrimination, you may want to find an experienced lawyer who is well-versed in employment law. Succeeding in an employment lawsuit without a lawyer is nearly impossible. A good lawyer will know how to present the proper witnesses and documents to the court and jury, and how to prevent a large company and from using unfair means to influence the case.

Proving discrimination in a court of law is based on two positions: yours and your employer’s. That is why it is extremely important for you to keep a record of every incident of discrimination that occurs. In a court of law, this is referred to as an “adverse employment action.” An adverse employment action can affect everything from pay, title, vacation time, firing or hiring — basically anything that is a term or condition of employment.

Your employer will then be forced to explain or provide a legitimate reason why the adverse employment action took place. It is up to the jury to decide whether or not that reason is legal under the law. For instance, your employer may be accused of firing you because you are of a different race. He or she can tell the court that they fired you simply because they were downsizing, which is perfectly legal.

It is actually more difficult to prove discrimination than you may think. You and your lawyer may want to go over the evidence you have collected as well as provide suitable statistical information that may be beneficial to your case.

The essential question you need to ask yourself is why. Why were you fired? Why did you receive a pay cut? Was it because of your age, race or gender? Or was it because of something else? Once you have determined the answer, you will know whether or not you were a victim of discrimination. Then you can proceed accordingly as you see fit.

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