Though we all try to avoid it, sometimes discrimination towards people with disabilities at work still occurs. Probably more often than we realize. When this type of situation happens, it can leave you feeling uncomfortable, traumatized, anxious, and at a loss as to the why and how. However, before you take steps to report the discrimination, you need to make sure it was actually a true occurrence of discrimination.
Was it Really Discrimination?
Take a step back and think about the incident, not just from your perspective, but from others perspectives as well. You want to fully analyze what happened before you report it. Are you actually the victim of discrimination, or have your jumped to a conclusion based on your own feelings and thoughts?
Discrimination is defined as the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, religion, disability, pregnancy or sex. In fact, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission provides fact sheets to help you better assess what types of discrimination are prohibited by law.
Once you have reviewed the incident, and determined that it was discrimination, there are steps you need to take to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Documenting the Incidence of Discrimination
As Jay Motes writes in the Houston Chronicle, many employees fail to take action after an act of discrimination takes place, hoping that the problem will go away. Motes recommends documenting the discrimination, whether you take immediate action or wait to see if the problem persists. You should write down the day, time, people involved, including witnesses, and details of the act.
Since some employer and government regulations require you to report the discrimination in certain time frame, it is important not to wait too long to address the problem or incident.
Findlaw, a Thomson Reuters Business, recommends not only keeping a diary of the incident(s), but also retaining any objects, such as pictures or postings, that you may also feel are discriminating.
Once you have fully documented the discrimination, it is time to report it to your employer. First you might want to review your company’s discrimination policies to see what steps you need to take to report the incident, as well as who you should talk to about what happened. If you are required to talk to your boss about the discrimination, and they are the ones committing the discrimination, reach out to your H.R. department instead.
You may also want to review state and federal laws regarding workplace discrimination, so you are better prepared for your meeting, and aware of what actions can be taken.
When you meet with your boss or H.R. department, make sure they take the incident as seriously as you are taking it. Ask for documentation of the report they are filing, or a written confirmation of your meeting about the discrimination. Be sure to ask about what steps will be taken to address, investigate and rectify the situation. Since most employers already have steps in place for this type of process, they should review them with you during your meeting.
Hopefully, your company will take the necessary actions to make the discrimination stop. If this is not the case, however, you might need to be prepared to hire a lawyer to help you navigate the process and protect yourself and your job.