This guide will walk you through the steps to consider when you suspect that you are suffering work place discrimination. Please note that these are just general suggestions and you should contact an attorney for the best level of protection.
Step 1: Review Your Company's HR Manual
You must check your employee handbook to figure out the complaint process, i.e. whether you need to file a written complaint and whom that complaint should be filed with. You must follow your company's complaint procedure and this is especially important if you are a union employee. You will not be able to bring a credible claim if you have not followed the procedure outlined by your Company's or the collective bargaining agreement.
Step 2: Keep a Journal
Keep a written journal of the harassing/discriminating events, dates and times, witnesses to the events, letters, notes, emails from the harasser etc. You need to gather evidence in real time while it happens to have the clearest and more accurate record of the harassment. Once you have been terminated, keep a very detailed journal of the conversations which led to your termination, the people who were present in the meeting, and the reasons given to you for termination. It is also extremely important to keep a clear record of all of your job search efforts after termination. You are required to mitigate your damages and hence, you need to be actively looking for a job and applying for unemployment compensation benefits.
Step 3: Contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
In Pennsylvania, you are required to file a charge with the EEOC and the Pa. Human Relations Commission before you are allowed to bring a case in court. You are required to file the charge within 180 days of the discriminatory event, such as termination, denial of promotion, unequal pay rates, or other clear instances of harassment or discrimination. If you do not file the charge within this timeline, you will not be able to sue for damages on those particular events unless they are a part of a continuing course of conduct.
Step 4: Call a Lawyer
This is a murky area and you should have competent legal counsel to navigate these waters. You can be certain that your employer is making full use of their general counsel and outside counsel in setting up and executing your termination. You need to be equally protected and the best time to contact an attorney is before you are terminated or suffer some other negative employment treatment.
Step 5: DON'T SIGN ANYTHING!
I repeat, DON'T SIGN ANYTHING! If you are presented with a separation package or severance agreement at termination, no matter how much you are pressured, do not sign anything. You have a right to have this agreement reviewed by an attorney and should do exactly that. DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING! (Can't say it enough)