What To Know About Discrimination And Harassment At Work
If you are wondering whether your employer harassed or discriminated against you in the eyes of the law, you should know your rights. You deserve to feel safe and to be treated fairly at work – no matter who you are.
At Formisano & Company, our employment law attorneys can help you get the information you need to protect yourself and your career. Call us for personalized advice for your situation.
What counts as illegal workplace discrimination?
The following actions can be signs of illegal workplace discrimination if the motivation is not based on a worker’s merit, but rather their protected class, such as age, sex, gender or race:
- Firing or demoting an employee
- Unfairly assigning tasks, such as giving harder or extra tasks to a worker who has a disability to make them “prove” their worth
- Passing up a qualified candidate for a job, promotion or special opportunity
- Denying equipment and resources necessary for the job, including failing to provide reasonable accommodations
- Paying a worker less than their counterparts for similar work
These acts are not always discriminatory by nature. However, they can be signs of discrimination if the motivation is not based on a worker’s merit but rather their protected class, such as age or race.
What is not considered workplace discrimination?
Many people have jobs they dislike or bosses who treat them poorly. This is not necessarily a case of workplace discrimination, harassment or a hostile work environment, however. To have a valid case, you must have suffered illegal discrimination based on being in a protected class, such as disability, sex, gender, age, national origin or race, or have been sexually harassed.
Unpleasant colleagues and angry managers are, unfortunately, a fact of life for many people. If their behavior is not based on illegal discrimination or sexual harassment, then there is likely no basis for a claim.
Do I have a case?
You may have a valid legal claim for workplace harassment or discrimination if you are a member of a protected class or you were sexually harassed. If your employer has retaliated against you for making a claim or reporting illegal practices or unsafe conditions, you may have a case. Was your employment contract breached? This may be a valid case as well.
Many factors, including not only what was done or said but also what evidence exists to establish that you were unlawfully harassed or discriminated against, must be considered. An experienced Rhode Island employment law attorney will be able to listen to the facts of your case, apply those facts to the law, and help you determine whether you have a valid case against an employer.
Can my boss fire me for reporting sexual harassment?
No, it is illegal to fire, demote or otherwise punish a worker for reporting sexual harassment, as long as the worker made the claim in good faith. If an employer retaliates, you have legal options. You do not have to fear losing your job when reporting sexual harassment in the workplace.
Should I report discrimination and harassment to my human resources department?
HR departments serve the employer first and foremost. While the HR representative might be able to resolve the conflict, it is advisable to speak with your own lawyer beforehand. Your lawyer can help protect your rights as your dedicated advocate and strive to get the best outcome possible.
What can I do if HR does not resolve the problem?
Your employer’s HR department is not your only option. Even if it stops the discrimination or harassment, it might not help you recover from any losses you already suffered.
Depending on your case, filing a complaint with the Rhode Island Human Rights Commission or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission may be appropriate. These state and federal entities can give you a different opportunity to protect your rights.