Four Steps You Must Take Before You're Ready To Sue For Discrimination

The decision to sue your employer for discrimination is a serious one, and if your situation has developed to the point where you think you may have to do so, it's best to be prepared. After you've realized that you can't deal with the discrimination shown to you and that your employer isn't going to take care of it for you, you may be wondering what the next step is. Of course, you should always consult a competent lawyer, such as Warfield Darrah & Erdmann, about the best way to file your lawsuit, but before you get to that point there are several other actions you must take. Here are four signs that you've completed all the steps you need to be ready for a discrimination case.

1. Filing your official complaint within the company

As soon as you realize that you're being treated unfairly by a co-worker, supervisor, manager, or other employee of the company you work for, you should of course attempt to work out the difficulty personally between the two of you. But if this doesn't remedy the discriminating behavior, you'll have to start the process of formal complaint. The company or business you work at should have a standardized process, but even if it doesn't, you can make your complaint official by submitting it to the company in writing. It's important to address your complaint to the correct authorities within the company. At this point it may take several business days or longer for the company to address your complaint, but if you notify the correct people (the business owner if you work for a small business, but if you work for a large company you can ask employees in the human resources department who is the right person to contact) and the problem isn't resolved within a couple of weeks or so, you can continue on to the next step.

2. Communicating the problem to a state or federal agency

Letting the agencies in charge of equal employment opportunities know that you've been discriminated against in your workplace is the next step. To do this, you can check to see if you have a Fair Employment Practices Agency in your state. If so, file with that agency. If not, file with the federal agency (the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC). If you're not sure which is appropriate, just choose one. You don't have to take the time to file with both, because they'll re-file your complaint if applicable so that it's on file in both the state and the federal agency. This complaint step allows the appropriate agency to send your employer a notification so the company has one more chance to remedy the problem. The agency will also review the issue you've presented and decide whether it's worth a lawsuit, whether a mediator might help, or whether you don't have a solid reason to complain. If the agency decides you do have a valid complaint, you will be sent a "right to sue" letter.

3. Complying with any efforts made to resolve the problem

If you want to show that your employer is at fault for discrimination, you'll need to go along with it if the company tries to make it up to you. For example, your employer may wish to try to work things out with you through a third party called a mediator. Or the EEOC may recommend that you seek the help of such a mediator to work out the problem. If the company is willing to meet you halfway, you should also give it your best effort. That way if things don't work out with the mediator, you're not the one at fault.

4. Collecting plenty of evidence

If you're going to sue anyone, you need evidence. You'll need to have documentation, video footage, witnesses who saw the discrimination taking place, and/or other types of proof so that you can show in court that you were discriminated against. Because you're bringing the case, you'll have the "burden of proof," meaning that the company you're accusing will be presumed innocent until you prove them guilty.

These four requirements must be met before you can expect to build a strong case in favor of the fact that you were wrongfully discriminated against. Remember that this shouldn't be considered legal advice, though; you should only take legal advice from your lawyer. Be sure to ask your lawyer whether you're likely to win your case before you decide whether or not to sue.