So, you have finally made the decision to sue your employer for workplace discrimination. Congratulations - no one should have to endure a hostile work environment or unfair treatment on the job. While you probably want to get the ball rolling and file your complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission right away, it is important to understand that you must put in some legwork before filing a complaint or contacting an employment attorney.
The following tips for suing your employer will help you better prepare yourself for your initial consultation with a professional California employment attorney and give you the evidence you need to prove your case.
5 Smart Tips for Suing Your Employer in California
1.) Write Down Your Discrimination Complaint
If you are facing discrimination at work, you may think that picking up the phone to complain to a human resources associate is a good step in relieving you from a hostile work environment. The truth is, simply speaking to HR over the phone is not enough if you want to win your case. Instead, communicate to your company's HR department or supervisor through email or even send a letter via certified mail. Taking this step will ensure that HR or your boss cannot deny that you had informed them of the discrimination you experienced.
2.) Always Document Everything
While you may have a good memory, you will still want to write down every discriminatory incident as it happens. This will ensure that the nitty-gritty details of each situation always get recorded as soon as possible. The more detailed the better (make note of dates for incidents) because your documentation could be used as evidence in your case. Keep your notes in a secured binder or journal. And whatever you do, don't leave it out on your desk or at work. You will also want to save each email or voicemail from your boss or coworkers that may help your case.
Additionally, if you are terminated from your job and feel that it was due to your race, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, pregnancy or other protected characteristic under California law, always document the incident by sending a follow-up email to the supervisor who fired you, summarizing the discussion that occurred. This could also be used as a good piece of evidence later.
3.) Don't Trash Your Pay Stubs
If you are suing your boss for discrimination as it relates to pay, you will want to present pay stubs and other financial documentation to help prove your case. Similarly, if you were out of work for a while due to discrimination or wrongful termination, securing copies of your pay stubs will help you share with your attorney the amount of wages you lost while you were unemployed.
4.) Gather Your Witnesses
Whether your boss threatened to dock your pay because you got pregnant, verbally abused and demoted you to a lesser position due to your age, or fired you on the spot for reporting illegal workplace activity, always speak to your coworkers who may have witnessed these unlawful employer behaviors. If your coworker is willing, have him or her write down a description of the incident that occurred. This could also act as key evidence and strengthen your case.
5.) Leave the Lawyering to an Experienced Employment Attorney
If you are facing discrimination in the workplace, it may take everything in you to bite your tongue and stay calm in the heat of the moment. So, while you may want to email your boss claiming a hostile work environment, or you want to shout out, "This is blatant discrimination!" at your supervisor, take a deep breath and then contact an employment attorney. You do not want to be a bully yourself, or face your employer's attorney without one of your own.
If you feel like you've been subjected to discrimination at work, you should always follow your workplace's internal policies for making a discrimination complaint. If you need help suing your employer for discrimination, contact our expert California employment attorneys at Hennig Ruiz for a free consultation.