Can You Pursue a Workplace Discrimination Claim and Keep Your Job?

Feb 09, 2021
By Peter Friedmann

Our Ohio employment law clients sometimes tell us that they feel like they waited too long to file a workplace discrimination lawsuit because they feared retaliation and/or losing their job. People suffer for months or years because of the belief that speaking up and demanding justice may put them in a more uncomfortable position.

Sadly, this concern can be justified. Managers and supervisors frequently retaliate against workers who report unfair, unequal and illegal treatment.  It is important to know that this type of retaliation is illegal.

Knowing how to navigate your workplace after filing a Charge of Discrimination or lawsuit can give you peace of mind and an understanding of how to handle retaliation, if you experience any. Taking the proper steps when collecting evidence and reporting incidents will also increase the chances that the employer will be held accountable for allowing or encouraging discrimination.

Make Sure You Have an Actionable Complaint

Federal and state laws prohibit discrimination against employees and job applicants on the basis of the following protected classes:

  • Race,
  • National origin,
  • Ethnicity,
  • Sex,
  • Religion,
  • Sexual orientation,
  • Gender identity,
  • Age when older than 40,
  • Disability,
  • Pregnancy,
  • Military service or veteran status, and
  • Genetic information.

As a legal matter, workplace discrimination can take many forms.. First, it can involve denying an individual job opportunities, fair pay, or benefits based on their race, sex, age, or other legally protected characteristic, like those listed above.

A second type of workplace discrimination creates a hostile workplace. Mistreatment or abuse that is so severe and which occurs frequently that the victim fears for their safety or finds it difficult to do their job definitely gives grounds for filing a workplace discrimination lawsuit.  This type of harassment or treatment MUST be based on one of the protected classes above.  Bullying, generally, is not illegal in Ohio.

Discrimination can also exist pursuant to specific federal and Ohio laws that protect employees. For instance, the federal statute that protects military veterans from discrimination, USERRA, makes it illegal for employers to give away National Guard members’ jobs when the Guardsmen are called up to serve on active duty. Another law, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), requires employers to consider, in good faith, an employee’s request for a reasonable accommodation such as longer breaks or permission to use adaptive equipment.  There are a lot of examples so please consult with an employment lawyer about your specific situation.

Consulting with an Ohio employee rights lawyer when you believe you are suffering workplace discrimination will help you understood if you have grounds for filing a complaint and, if necessary, pursuing a lawsuit. Speaking with an attorney will also allow you to receive guidance on collecting solid evidence to support your claim.

Prepare to Share Well-Organized Evidence

Properly managing a workplace discrimination lawsuit while keeping your job starts long before you actually file any documents with a court. The first step toward a lawsuit will be submitting a formal complaint about discrimination to the human resources department or a trusted supervisor. Doing this legally obligates your employer to conduct a thorough investigate and to try to resolve the issue.

Approaching HR or a supervisor with documents in hand and support from coworkers who can corroborate your story will help ensure that your claim receives the attention it deserves. The emails, notes, voicemail messages and witness statements you gather at the start of this process will also provide a strong foundation for more detailed investigations down the line.

When discrimination persists or when the employer does not meet its legal duties, it is time to take the complaint to a federal or state agency that exists to enforce employee rights. This is often the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but another agency may need to be contacted, like the Ohio Civil Rights Commission.

A lawsuit would follow the process used by the government agency to look into and make a determination about your case. An employment law attorney can guide you as to where to direct your complaint and also offer assistance with preparing it.

Know Your Rights to Work Free From Retaliation

You may worry about retaliation after you file a workplace discrimination complaint and/or commit to pursuing a lawsuit. Do know, however, that you have legal protections against things such as being demoted, denied raises and promotions, subjected to verbal or physical abuse, and termination.

Each of the laws that prohibit workplace discrimination also make it illegal for an employer to punish workers who engage in protected activity. When an employer retaliates anyway, that can be added to the lawsuit.

Hiring an Ohio employee rights attorney to advise and represent you can help keep your employer in check. There are no guarantees but getting a lawyer involved will make it clear to managers and supervisors that their actions could have serious consequences.

Attorneys with The Friedmann Firm offer free and confidential consultations to victims of workplace discrimination in Ohio. We have offices in Columbus and Cincinnati, and we take cases throughout the state. Learn how we may be able to help you by calling 614.610.9755 or connecting with us online.