In the world of workplace discrimination, injustices often hide in plain sight, cloaked in the guise of normalcy where the line between right and wrong can seem frustratingly blurred. Countless NYC employees have found themselves marginalized, undervalued, or simply cast aside because of aspects of their identity that have nothing to do with their professional abilities.
Fortunately, New York City laws forbid discrimination in the workplace based on protected characteristics that include race, age, disability, pregnancy, religion, national origin, gender identity, sex or sexual orientation, immigration status, marital status, or military status. New York City’s Human Rights Law also protects against employment discrimination based on height, weight, arrest or conviction record, and status as a victim of domestic violence.
Recognizing the signs of workplace discrimination is the first step to getting justice. You can file a legal claim to hold your employer accountable – but you must be able to prove that discrimination occurred with solid evidence. An experienced employment discrimination lawyer can help you untangle the intricate web of legal standards, company policies, and human biases to put forward a strong and strategic case.
How Do You Know If You’re Experiencing Discrimination at Work?
Discrimination at work can often be subtle and difficult to pinpoint. However, some common signs can indicate unfair or illegal treatment. For example:
- Unequal Pay for Similar Work – Employees with similar roles and responsibilities receive significantly different salaries, especially if the salary differences align with protected characteristics like gender, race, or age.
- Disparities in Promotions– Certain groups of employees consistently get passed over for promotions in favor of less qualified individuals from a different race, gender, or age group. This can be visible in the absence of diversity in leadership positions.
- Isolation or Exclusion– Employees with certain protected characteristics are physically or socially isolated or segregated in the workplace, or they regularly get excluded from important meetings or projects without a valid reason.
- Differential Treatment– You notice how certain groups are treated differently compared to others, such as stricter enforcement of rules or less tolerance for mistakes for some employees based on their race, gender, religion, etc.
- Harassment or Bullying – Persistent harassment or bullying targeted at employees from specific groups, including derogatory comments, jokes, or offensive materials on display related to race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.
- Negative Performance Evaluations Unrelated to Performance– Employees from specific groups receive poor performance evaluations that don’t reflect their actual work performance but seem to be influenced by characteristics like age or disability.
- Biased Hiring Practices – A company’s hiring patterns suggest that they have a preference for or against candidates from certain demographic groups. For example, they consistently refuse to hire qualified candidates of a particular race or gender.
- Toxic Work Environment – This can happen when discrimination is systemic throughout the entire company. For example, jokes, comments, or behaviors that demean certain groups of people are tolerated or even encouraged by management, or complaints of discriminatory behavior are ignored or trivialized by superiors.
While these signs can indicate potential discrimination, they don’t necessarily confirm that discrimination is happening. Every situation is unique and requires a closer examination of the context and patterns of behavior. This is where an experienced attorney can make a huge difference by evaluating your case and outlining your legal options.
How Do You Prove You’re Being Treated Unfairly at Work?
When it comes to proving workplace discrimination, evidence is key. One of the most important steps you can take is to meticulously document your experiences.
- Keep a Detailed Journal – Document every incident of suspected discrimination as soon as it happens. Include dates, times, places, what was said or done, and the names of any witnesses who can confirm your account. Be as specific as possible.
- Save All Communication – Preserve emails, texts, memos, and any other written communications that may relate to the discrimination you’re experiencing. These documents can serve as direct evidence of discriminatory practices or attitudes.
- Record Policies and Procedures – Keep a copy of your employer’s policies and procedures, especially if you believe they’re being applied in a discriminatory way. Note any deviations from these policies in how you or other employees are treated.
- Collect Comparative Evidence – Gather information about how others in similar positions are treated, especially those who are not part of the same protected class as you. This can include pay records, performance evaluations, or disciplinary records.
- Witness Statements – If colleagues or other parties are willing, obtain written statements from them detailing what they’ve observed.
- Performance Records – Keep all records of your performance reviews, especially if they contradict the reasons given for any adverse employment actions you face, or if they show a dramatic change in how you’re getting evaluated.
- Environmental Evidence – If the discrimination is part of the overall environment (such as offensive posters or jokes), take photos or keep notes detailing the occurrences.
- Medical and Psychological Records – If the discrimination has affected your health, keep records of any related medical or psychological treatments you’ve received.
- Legal Correspondence – If you’ve communicated with your company’s HR or legal departments about the issue, keep copies of all these correspondences.
- Changes After Complaints – If you notice changes in your treatment or job situation after making a complaint of discrimination, this could be a sign of illegal retaliation.
Gathering evidence can be challenging, so it’s important to seek support where you can. This might include talking to coworkers who have observed the discrimination or experienced similar treatment. In addition to providing moral support, they may be willing to provide statements or evidence that can strengthen your case. Your attorney can guide you on the best course of action and help you to gather and present your evidence effectively.
Is It Difficult to Prove Discrimination at Work?
Because discrimination often occurs in subtle ways and can be hard to demonstrate concretely, it can be a challenge to prove. Most managers don’t admit their biases outright, much less in writing. Employers might try to cover up their tracks and provide other reasons for their actions, like economic factors or performance-related issues.
Without direct evidence, many workplace discrimination cases rely on circumstantial evidence to show a pattern of behavior that suggests a discriminatory motive. Understanding how to collect and present this type of evidence is critical to filing a successful claim.
Given the complexities involved in proving workplace discrimination, an experienced lawyer can help you determine whether you have a viable case and the best strategies to pursue it. Although facing discrimination at work can be a challenging and distressing experience, a successful case can get you justice and damages, including backpay and compensation for any losses you’ve experienced as a result of your illegal treatment. Remember, you’re not alone in this journey – and Mirza Law can help. Contact us now for your free consultation.