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5 things you should do if you're facing discrimination

You've faced discrimination in the workplace for the last six months. It's taken an emotional toll, to the point that it's a hostile workplace. You dread going to work. You can't imagine doing this for the next 30 years until you retire.

You may not have to. You suspect that your boss is going to fire you. It's unfair, and you both know it. But you can't shake the feeling that this is the end of the line. If you stand up for yourself at all, that's it.

Taking that stand

Workplace discrimination is illegal. You can take a stand. If the discrimination is based on race, gender, religion, age or any other protected classes, your boss is violating your rights. That's illegal in California and across the United States.

Will you get fired? Perhaps, but that's also illegal. Your employer can't retaliate against you simply because you reported illegal behavior. If you're fired based on the discrimination itself or as a retaliation, the law has been broken again.

That said, it's important to build your case in advance. Here are five things you should do when discrimination impacts your job:

  1. Report it promptly. People often try to ignore it, either hoping it will go away or not knowing their rights. Don't do it. Instead, file that report as soon as you can. The paper trail can help if you do get fired and you want to prove a pattern of behavior.
  2. Keep records. Write out detailed accounts every time something happens. Add in dates, names and other information. Take pictures and videos, if possible. If you wind up in court, you want more than your word against your employer.
  3. Give names. Not only should you name your harassers, but you need to name witnesses. People often don't want to do this because they don't want to burn bridges at the company or because they feel bad getting others involved, but those testimonies are everything in a case like this.
  4. Stay calm. Don't do anything impulsive. Never react in anger. Instead, the next time you face discrimination, focus all of your negative energy on getting records, writing things down and building your case. Doing anything else -- like screaming at your boss in front of the whole office -- could paint you in a negative light when witnesses get called.
  5. Prepare for a long process. Companies don't want to fire executives over allegations. They don't want to give payouts or admit fault. It can take time to prove you faced discrimination and even lost your job because of it.

By planning ahead, you strengthen your case if the worst does happen.

Knowing your rights

Above all else, be sure you know your rights. Discrimination is so common that many people don't even realize that the behavior is impermissible, and then they don't know what to do when lines get crossed. The more you understand your legal position, the better.

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