In a large city such as Knoxville and surrounding East Tennessee, there are many different types of employers. Some corporate, some creative, some large, and some small. No matter where you work in Knoxville, it is important that you do not feel discriminated against in any way. Not only does discrimination make the work environment hostile and employees unhappy, law prohibits it.
But, employment law in the workplace can be tricky and it can be difficult to determine whether an employee is truly being discriminated against. For example, a job promotion you’ve been vying for might go to someone with less qualification — who might happen to be white, young, and male — and you feel as though an unfair decision was made. But, does that mean discrimination in the workplace actually took place?
Common sense may tell you that the unfair treatment you’ve been subject to is discriminatory based on your age, race, or gender but the law could say otherwise. The technical and extensive guidelines for discrimination under state and federal law must be met in order to move forward with a claim, and the law doesn’t prohibit an employer from making decisions that may seem unfair to an employee.
So, what do anti-discrimination laws prohibit? What don’t they prohibit? It’s important to know the general answers to these questions if you are employed in Knoxville, TN in case you ever feel you are subject to discrimination in the workplace. With these answers, you’ll know whether contacting an attorney and going forward with a claim is in your best interest.
The employment law attorneys at Hodges, Doughty & Carson have worked with countless clients on cases of workplace discrimination, harassment, employee privacy, and more. Our goal is to give our clients an understanding of employment law from a broad perspective, one that takes in to account the sensitivity of these issues for both employees and employers.
We know the ins and outs of employment law, and what it takes to warrant a discrimination claim. We want to share this information with you, so that you may have a better understanding of the workplace and know the difference between discrimination and, possibly, just a bad boss. If, after reading this article, your questions are not fully answered or you believe you have a claim do not hesitate to contact us.
What don’t anti-discrimination laws prohibit?
Let’s say you’re an employee at The University of Tennessee, one of Knoxville’s largest employers. In a meeting, you’re treated to an undeserved lashing for a mistake that was not made by you — in fact; you might have had no involvement in the topic at hand. Although it may feel like this behavior is an act of discrimination, factors such as this are not enough to prove illegal discrimination.
Unfortunately, law does not prohibit and employer from making unkind, foolish, ridiculous, or generally unfair decisions for their employees. Trivial animosities, favoritism of others, and unreasonable demands are not necessarily proof of discrimination. All of these might prove that your employer is no good, but it takes more evidence to prove a breech of anti-discrimination law.
There must be tangible evidence that an employer’s motivation was illegal under the laws or that the employer ignored an employee’s concerns of discrimination in the workplace. If you truly feel discrimination in the workplace, do your best to collect evidence of that discrimination.
Keep a journal of incidents and the date that discrimination or harassment occurred. Make sure to record the time, location, parties involved, witnesses, and the specific details of the improper conduct or speech. If your manager alluded to, or directly stated, that he or she thinks you’re a lesser employee because of your age or your gender, write it down.
Also, keep any objects that you believe to be discriminatory in nature or made you feel harassed. For example, the coworker you share an office with might have left a pornographic or racist photo or note on your desk “as a joke.” First, report this action to human resources or your boss. Next, ensure you follow any legitimate policies in your employee handbook. Furthermore, contact an attorney who specializes in employment law at your earliest opportunity.
So, anti-discrimination laws don’t prohibit unfairness or mistreatment to a certain level. But, as soon as you feel you are being discriminated against based on repeated behavior or evidence you’ve gathered, report the actions to the right person.
What do anti-discrimination laws prohibit, exactly?
By definition, statutes prohibit employers from taking any action concerning an employee based on his or her race, gender, disability, religion, national origin, worker’s compensation status, or veteran status. Each of these represents a “protected class” of parties who cannot be discriminated against. In reality, no one should be discriminated against — this is just how the law organizes it.
While it might seem like a relatively straightforward definition, the application is where it can get complicated. Sometimes, discrimination is overlooked and sometimes it is overanalyzed. In any case, the first step that you should take if you feel discrimination where you work in Knoxville and East Tennessee is reporting it.
Don’t be shy about making your employer aware that you feel discriminated against or that you are being harassed. In many cases, illegal acts in the workplace go unpunished because the victim does not step forward for fear of losing his or her job, or being brushed off as just complaining.
Law requires your employer to pay attention to your concerns regarding discrimination. Make clear to them, or to human resources, that you are taking the behavior you’ve been subject to seriously and request that a written report be filed each time you report an incident. If you feel, and have proof, that your concerns and allegations are ignored, handled improperly by your employer, or are being retaliated against, then it is time to contact a lawyer to work on your behalf.
Another vital step to take if you believe you’re experiencing discrimination in the workplace is to review your company’s anti-discrimination policy. While state and federal laws are in place to protect you, there are also more specific guidelines for each company based on the company values and environment. If the company does in fact have written policy on discrimination, but do not comply with their own policy, it could serve to benefit your case.
With all of this in mind, be as fair as you possibly can with the facts before taking steps toward legal action against your employer. If you’re angry or hurt, take a few steps back from those feelings and look at the situation as objectively as possible. No, your employer or coworker should not have mistreated you but, ask yourself, was this mistreatment based on discrimination? Was it a breech of employment law?
As employment law attorneys, we take the mistreatment of employees seriously and you should too. We hope that this article can help you see employment law and employer discrimination in Knoxville, Tennessee and throughout East Tennessee more comprehensively.