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How to Report Workplace Discrimination

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Reporting discrimination to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was a necessary step for 88,778 people in fiscal year 2014. Discrimination is defined by the EEOC as "using neutral employment policies and practices that have a disproportionately negative effect on applicants or employees of a particular race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), or national origin, or on an individual with a disability or class of individuals with disabilities, if the polices or practices at issue are not job-related and necessary to the operation of the business." It can involve anything from hiring or firing issues, unfair pay disparity, unfair discipline, failure to make reasonable accommodations, religious discrimination, unfair terms of employment or harassment. Before you go through the bureaucratic hassle of filing a formal complaint with the federal agency charged with punishing discriminating employers, try to resolve the problem locally. You may find a quicker, more satisfying resolution to your problem if you discuss it with your boss, then move up the chain of command. If you cannot find a resolution, the EEOC is always available to assist you.

Start in-House

Regardless of what type of discrimination you face, report the problem to your direct supervisor or your human resources department. Carefully follow any procedure that is mandated by your union or employment contract, if applicable, since these policies were created specifically to deal with these issues. There may be a toll-free number to call to report the perpetrator to trained professionals who can quickly resolve the problem. If you are a member of a union, contact your union representative if there is no formal policy in place to report a violation of your employment rights.

Move up the Chain of Command

Sometimes an employee's supervisor is the one doing the discriminating. If this is your situation, report the abuse to his supervisor or to the human resources manager. Always bring a written narrative documenting each specific event with you when you file your report. This narrative should include dates, times and names. If you have witnesses, secure a written statement from them that demonstrates that it is not merely a misunderstanding. These pieces of evidence can prove invaluable, especially if you feel that you may face retribution from your direct supervisor for reporting the discrimination. Retaliation by an employer is also illegal and should be reported in the same manner.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

As you move up the chain of command or follow your employment or union contract, you may be asked to proceed to an alternative dispute resolution method, such as arbitration. ADR methods open the door to communication between all parties involved in a safe and non-threatening manner. You will be asked to meet with a representative of the employer and a judge or arbitrator to discuss the discrimination and find an amicable resolution. If this does not work, you can proceed to a formal hearing with a judge and jury to seek a binding solution. This procedure is typically quicker and not as costly as a federal complaint can be.

File a Complaint With the EEOC or Another Entity

Every employer is required by federal statute to post a standard Department of Labor employment poster in a common area that gives an overview of employee rights and lists agency contact information. It is easy to file a report on the EEOC website, by calling 1-800-669-4000, or by visiting one of the EEOC’s 53 field offices. You can also mail a description of the complaint; include dates, times and names, your personal contact information, your employer's contact information, an estimated number of co-workers at your place of employment and your signature to your EEOC field office. Or, try the EEOC Assessment Tool. This tool does not file your complaint, but it helps you identify the merits of your case and provides guidance about how to proceed.

Some large cities or states allow you to file a discrimination case locally with typically more broad definitions of discrimination. New York, for example, allows you to file a complaint with the New York Division of Human Rights and New York City makes available the New York City Commission on Human Rights. Consult a human rights or employment attorney to determine which agency best suits your situation.