Workplace discrimination is a serious topic – and one you can’t afford to take lightly. If you’re a victim of workplace discrimination, you may face lower pay, harassment from coworkers, and limited opportunities in the workplace, not to mention higher levels of stress and anxiety.

But are you sure that what you’re experiencing is truly discrimination? We’ll help you assess the situation.

Talking to a Lawyer

If you do suspect you’re facing workplace discrimination, the best course of action is to talk to a workplace discrimination lawyer. You don’t need to be 100 percent sure that this is what’s happening, nor do you need to have all the evidence gathered.

In fact, one of your lawyer’s first jobs will be determining whether or not you truly are a victim of workplace discrimination. They’ll work with you to help you understand your current situation, give you direction on how to gather evidence, and coach you through the next steps of the process. If you even somewhat suspect that you’re facing workplace discrimination, it’s worth your time to have a consultation.

What Is Workplace Discrimination?

Workplace discrimination is “illegal discrimination in the workplace based on legally protected characteristics.” These characteristics include “age, race, gender, religion, national origin, and physical or mental disability.”

What does that mean in more practical terms? Essentially, it means you’re being treated unfairly based on some aspect of your character that you cannot help. This manifests differently in different workplace environments.

Some people feel more direct harassment, getting made fun of or ridiculed in front of the group for some characteristic they can’t help. Some people feel it more subtly, such as getting passed over for promotion time after time.

Why Workplace Discrimination Can Be Ambiguous

Some criminal behavior is easy to spot and identify. But workplace discrimination can be highly ambiguous, and for several reasons.

For starters, the fact that workplace discrimination takes many forms means many people have trouble identifying it. If you believe that workplace discrimination only happens when someone is forced to take a pay cut or when someone is passed over for promotion, you may look the other way when you’re the recipient of a condescending email.

It’s also ambiguous because many actions related to workplace discrimination can be justified in other ways. If an employer didn’t hire you, you can make up excuses for them, belittling your own resume and qualifications to make a more comfortable narrative.

Signs You’re Being Discriminated Against

If you do have an inkling that you’re being discriminated against, keep an eye out for the following signs. While not completely foolproof, the following indications could be evidence that workplace discrimination is affecting you and your job:

  • Questions about your characteristics. Workplace discrimination can begin as early as the interview process. Pay attention to the types of questions that people are asking you. Are they asking about aspects of your identity, like your religion or your ethnic background? Some of these questions are illegal to ask in certain parts of the country; even if they’re legal, they could be indications of future discrimination.
  • Condescending or offensive communication. You may also experience workplace discrimination in the form of condescending, demeaning, or other offensive communication. Do your coworkers or your bosses talk down to you because of your gender or because of your background? Does anyone use racial slurs or another offensive language when talking to you or about you? Do you get the sense that people think less of you because of this characteristic?
  • Excessive disciplinary action. People often begin to notice workplace discrimination when they’re the subject of excessive disciplinary action. Sometimes, that means facing harsher penalties for very common offenses, like being late for work and getting heavily reprimanded for it. Other times, it means getting punished for something that doesn’t usually receive a punishment.
  • Unfair wage or promotion practices. Wage and promotion practices are another opportunities for discrimination; if you’re taking pay cuts, if your raised requests are being ignored, or if you’re not getting any promotion opportunities, it could be attributable to discrimination.

Gathering Evidence

As soon as you detect even a hint of workplace discrimination, it’s a good idea to start gathering evidence. Save those emails, record those conversations (if legal to do so), and keep a journal of all the activities that might qualify as discrimination. The more information you have on this case, the better your chances will be of winning a workplace discrimination lawsuit.

Workplace discrimination isn’t abundantly common, but it’s common enough to warrant investigation if you suspect it’s affecting you or your job. If you have some evidence that you’re being discriminated against, it’s important to talk to a lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your options moving forward.