The first step in a discrimination lawsuit starts before you ever leave work. By gathering your professional records ahead of time, you can fight back against victim blaming. Find out what you should know, and what you can do before even meeting with a lawyer to make your case stronger.
In How to Create a Sexual Harassment Log, I explained that your log should include performance reviews, job offers, raises, and other professional records. In this blog I will explain how an employment attorney can use those records to prove your workplace discrimination lawsuit. I will explain what records you should keep and why, and explain how they can protect you from a common employer defense strategy.
Why Professional Records Are Important
Whether you are facing workplace bias based on your race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation, your discrimination lawsuit comes down to one of two legal theories:
- Hostile work environment or
- Adverse employment decisions.
An adverse employment decision can include any decision by a manager, supervisor, or boss that negatively affects your work, as long as it is based on one of the protected traits. While a hostile work environment is usually demonstrated by logging who did what on the job, proving adverse employment decisions can take a bit more paperwork.
When most people think of employment discrimination they imagine a person being fired because of their gender, or passed over because of their race. But there are more subtle decisions your boss makes every day that could be considered grounds for a discrimination lawsuit. Decisions like job delegation, shift assignments, and raises can sometimes go unnoticed without careful attention to your professional records.
How Lawyers Use Professional Records
When you file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or in civil court, you will have to show that your employer made work-related decisions based on illegal bias. Your discrimination attorney can use your professional records to show when and how these decisions happened. By gathering documents from before and after the discrimination began, your attorney can show what has changed along the way.
One popular defense employers use in discrimination cases is to say that the decision was made because of employee performance. In other words, it wasn’t your race, sex, or ethnicity that caused you to be fired; it was the work you did in the past. Professional records are a strong tool against this defensive tactic. By showing what other supervisors, managers, or even previous employers thought of your performance, your lawyer can prove that it wasn’t your work that motivated your employer. It was bias.
What Professional Records Should You Keep?
Which records are most important depends on what your boss is doing.
- Offer letters and contracts: Your lawyers can use offer letters and employment contracts to show what your work was supposed to be.
- Performance reviews: If your employer uses periodic performance reviews to determine raises, promotions, or bonuses, these reviews can demonstrate your value as an employee. As supervisors change, and biases become evident, you will be able to see shifts in the way you are evaluated.
- Proof of raises and bonuses: Your attorney can use anything from a check stub to an award letter to show when you have received raises or bonuses in the past. This can also provide clues to your lawyers about what documents exist for other employees, so they can show how you were treated differently than your coworkers.
- Work schedules and job assignments: By keeping a log of your weekly work schedule or job assignment over time, you and your lawyer can see where a supervisor is treating you poorly. If you are consistently brought in for split shifts or odd hours that you didn’t expect, it could be a sign of discrimination.
Why Not Let the Lawyer Do the Work?
As you prepare to file a discrimination lawsuit, it is a good idea to start gathering the paperwork, even before your lawyers draft a complaint. Unfortunately, sometimes when an employee complains about discrimination he or she may be quickly fired or denied access to records related to employment. This is illegal retaliation, but it can make it harder to prove your case. That’s why it is a good idea to collect your documents early, rather than letting your lawyer do the work as part of your discrimination litigation.
An experienced employment discrimination attorney can make your professional records work for you, helping to prove your discrimination lawsuit. At Eisenberg & Baum, LLP, our staff can help you identify what to keep, and make a strategy to get the relief you want, in or out of court. Contact us to schedule a free consultation.