We may have gone a long way from the days when people of color were openly discriminated, but sadly, there are still people who never outgrew their racial biases. Many Blacks, Latin Americans, and Asians are still treated differently in their workplaces than their Caucasian counterparts. Despite their American citizenship or nationalism, they are still regarded as "aliens", mocked and given less desirable assignments simply because of their race.
Worse, some bosses even sabotage the careers of their POC staff so that they'd be fired. If you strongly feel like your discriminatory boss is plotting your termination, this article presents your legal defenses.
Understanding Wrongful Termination
Many employees who have been fired may complain about being a victim of wrongful termination. But by legal definition, "wrongful termination" refers to the sacking of an employee for illegal reasons, including discrimination based on your race, ethnic background, religion, gender, or disability.
It also counts as wrongful termination when an employee is fired because they filed a complaint against their employer. So for instance, if you notified your HR department about your boss's racial slurs, and you received a termination letter the next day, you may file a lawsuit against your employer.
Firing an employee for standing up for themselves is an act of retaliation, which is illegal. According to the law, employers are forbidden to retaliate when charges are pressed against them by an employee. Therefore, if your boss threatens you that the company may fire you for suing them, don't back down, because the law is on your side.
Dealing With a Discriminatory Boss
Your boss may not fire you, but make your life in the office a living hell. Keep in mind that racial discrimination isn't just throwing racial slurs and remarks. It can also come in the form of isolation, or the denial of privileges, promotion opportunities, higher pay, or desirable assignments.
The first step in addressing such mistreatment is calling out your boss themselves. You may talk to them face-to-face, or send them a letter outlining the incidents wherein they have discriminated against you. Ask for an end to the behavior. If they retaliate, let them know that they are violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts, which prohibits discriminatory acts in the workplace.
Record every detail of the racial discrimination you experience. Include dates, times, locations, names of people involved, witnesses, and bits of the conversations you can remember clearly. Observe other employees who might be getting discriminated against as well. Discreetly ask your co-workers if your boss or anyone in the office has discriminated against them too.
Once you've completed your documentation, file a complaint to your HR. Your company should have a written complaint procedure for incidents of discrimination. If you don't find any higher-up in your company trustworthy, you may file your complaint with your local Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Don't delay filing your complaint to the EEOC, because they have statutes of limitations, which go from 180 to 300 days after the event of the discrimination, depending on the accusation.
File a lawsuit only if your HR or the EEOC didn't resolve your complaints to your satisfaction. Sue your employer, even if it is your boss who is discriminating you. Not holding your boss liable for their discriminatory acts towards you shows that your employer either tolerates the act or doesn't take the nature of the crime seriously.
What to Do if You're Wrongfully Terminated
If you've been terminated, for reasons that are doubtful or false, prove that it was a discriminatory act by doing the following:
- Know the law. Research about wrongful termination, or contact an experienced employment attorney to receive information straight from an expert. They may also be your legal counsel when you sue.
- Review your contract. Check to ensure that you haven't violated any terms to be fired.
- Ask for clarification. Turn to labor departments or unions for advice on moving forward if you've been subject to wrongful termination.
- Talk to HR. Even if you've been sacked, you may still approach HR to know how the termination process will work, and how you'll get the benefits you're entitled to.
- Gather evidence. As stated above, document all the details of every discrimination incident. Offer the names of the witnesses who will corroborate your claims when an investigation ensues.
- Keep it confidential. Whether you're still employed or terminated already, avoid talking about the incident to your colleagues. Spreading the word about it may foster office gossip, which may put you in a bad light.
- Let your legal counsel handle the case. They will strengthen your defenses and ensure that your discriminating boss and employer will pay.
It is important to speak up when you or someone you know is being discriminated against in the workplace. Enduring the mistreatment may only encourage the oppressor more. Put them in their place and let your voice serve as a reminder to discriminators that you are not someone to be disrespected.