People's Law Guide
GENERAL INFO: TIPS FOR VICTIMS OF JOB BIAS
Sexual harassment, gender discrimination, age discrimination and prejudicial acts based upon religion, race and national origin or taking medical leave occur with alarming frequency in the workplace. If you have been victimized by illegal job bias, here are some tips which can protect your rights and enhance the strength of your case:
1. File formal complaints with the correct governmental agencies. Complaints concerning most but not all types of illegal discrimination must be filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Florida Commission on Human Relations. An attorney who practices in the area of employment law can draft and file these complaints on your behalf. However, the EEOC does not accept complaints on violations of the Family & Medical Leave Act claims, a law requiring that jobs remain open for eligible employees to take leave to care for serious health concerns confronting them or immediate family members. Often, complaints of discrimination involve numerous agencies and laws.
2. You must file complaints and initiate lawsuits prior to strict deadlines. Many job bias laws have short statutes of limitations.
3. Consider hiring an attorney experienced in employment discrimination litigation. Non-attorneys at governmental agencies almost always write initial complaints, though they are not always familiar with all the laws involving other agencies (or sometimes even their own agencies). Incomplete and improperly worded legal documents can destroy even strong cases. Government agencies file lawsuits in fewer than 2% of the cases reported to them.
4. Start gathering evidence immediately, but do so lawfully. Proven case enhancement strategies can add significant strength to discrimination claims. Evidence not obtained early-on often becomes impossible to retrieve. Evidence obtained illegally can lead to criminal prosecutions and case dismissals.
5. If still at the job where you are experiencing discrimination, watch out for illegal retaliation. Though it's unlawful to punish workers for complaining of job bias, the EEOC reports that the number of retaliation complaints has steadily increased. When complaining of discrimination, send certified, return receipt letters describing discriminatory events to your boss and Human Resources Department.
6. Diary important incidents as they happen. Events not written down are often forgotten.
7. Seek favorable witnesses, but don't be surprised when even "good friends" fear coming forward. Keep abreast of coworkers who later quit or are fired. Because they're no longer financially dependent on the discriminating employer, these witnesses can be of extraordinary value.
8. If fired, start looking for work. You are required to minimize your out-of-pocket damages by beginning your job search immediately.
9. Workplace discrimination causes anguish and anxiety. Meeting with a psychologist or social worker can help heal emotional wounds and also documents your mental pain and suffering. "Disrupted sleep patterns, diminished enjoyment of things once cherished, changed eating patterns and frayed family relationships commonly accompany the anger and depression which follows the loss of one's job," notes Michael Rappaport, a Miami psychologist. "Discriminatory firings hurt even more than terminations for justifiable reasons,” Rappaport says.
10. Look for satisfaction and happiness outside of your workplace or legal battle. Job bias disputes are typically long-lasting marathons, not quick-ending sprints. Maintaining a positive outlook will enhance the likelihood of legal success. Importantly, it will also help you maintain your physical well-being and mental health.
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