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Facing Discrimination on-the-job: Avoid common pitfalls

What should you do if you feel discriminated against at your job?

Recently, a Georgia company settled a discrimination lawsuit with the U.S. Department of Labor. It was alleged that the company would discriminate against non-white and non-male employee candidates at its factory.

Discrimination in the workplace remains constant over a 25-year period.

According to a study done by Northwestern University in Chicago, the rate at which Black Americans are discriminated against in the workplace has stayed about the same from 1990-2015.

Employees in the United States are protected from discrimination by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Title VII protects against discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, religion, and, as of June, 2020, sexual orientation. If you feel that your job has been affected by any of these factors, you may have grounds to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or Georgia Commission of Equal Opportunity (for state employees only).

Step 1: Gather and keep evidence for safe keeping.

Discrimination at the workplace is often proven with circumstantial, or indirect evidence. Keep records of your employment record, accolades, write-ups, and all written correspondence (emails, texts). If possible, create a list of witnesses for your case.

Step 2: File a complaint with the EEOC District Office Closest to you

Tip #1: You only have 180 to file your complaint with the EEOC because of the statute of limitations.

Contact an EEO counselor in your area to make the initial complaint (Form 5). The counselor will interview witnesses and investigate your allegations. The EEOC can take up to 6 months to complete an investigation. The EEOC investigator assigned to the case may:

(a) request additional information from the complainant (the person alleging discrimination) and the employer

(b) refer the case to mediation if all parties are agreeable

(c) provide a right-to-sue letter if the matter was not resolved during mediation

Tip #2: Write a comprehensive discrimination complaint (include all relevant information) and avoid limiting language. If an employee forgets a claim (i.e. retaliation), he or she could be prevented from making that argument in court later.

Poor Example: At X employer, I experienced the following forms of discrimination…

Better Example: To the best of my recollection, some of the discrimination I faced included…

Step 3: Find an attorney to file your discrimination lawsuit

Once you have received a right-to-sue letter, you have 90 days to file a lawsuit. If you have not already found counsel, now is the time to do so. You are not required to have an attorney throughout the EEOC investigation process, but you may want to consider hiring an attorney to protect your claims and provide the best opportunity for pre-litigation settlement.

Does Georgia have any extra protections for its workers? Yes!

1) Georgia Fair Employment Practices Act protects state employees from discrimination based on race, color, disability, religion, sex, national origin, or age.

2) The Equal Pay Act prohibits employers from paying employees less than others due to their sex. This means that two people with the same skills, effort, and responsibility should be paid the same amount. This law applies to all Georgia employers that employ 10 or more people.

3) The Georgia Age Discrimination Act applies to all employers in Georgia and prohibits them from discriminating against employees for their age between 40 and 70 years of age.

4) Equal Employment for Persons with Disabilities Code protects employees with disabilities. This law applies to employers with 15 or more employees.

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