Workplace discrimination isn’t always as obvious as may think it will be. Even if your employer has never made derogatory statements against you, you may still suffer adverse employment actions based on a protected characteristic, such as your age, gender, race, or ethnicity. That’s why if you’re hit with a demotion, a reassignment to a less favorable position, a pay cut, or termination, then you might want to start digging deeper to see if there was some sort of illegal motivation behind the action.
What do your appraisals show?
One way that employers oftentimes discriminate against their employees is through the performance appraisal process. In too many instances, workers are penalized for reduced productivity or accommodations that are tied to their protected status. Employers also sometimes outright treat people of a certain age, gender, or race unfairly.
And how your performance appraisal reads is important. After all, your employer may use your past appraisals to justify taking against you. Therefore, if you think that you’ve been treated unfairly in your appraisal, then you might want to ask the following questions:
- Were you penalized for taking protected time off? Under the Family Medical Leave Act, you’re allowed to take time off for certain life events without being penalized at work. Sometimes, though, employers wrongly indicate that an employee has fallen short of performance expectations because they’ve taken too much time off. This is illegal, and you may be warranted in taking legal action if those assessments end up leading to an adverse employment decision.
- Does the appraisal contain problematic language? Your appraisal may contain language that is discriminatory in nature. Therefore, as you read your evaluation, make sure that you’re considering whether the statements contained within it describe your performance or you as a person. If it’s the latter, then the words utilized are even more important. For example, saying that a female employee often fails to complete job duties that require heavy lifting because she is weak is problematic.
- How have others been appraised? The appraisal process is supposed to be as objective as possible. Yet, all too often employers allow their subjective biases to come into play. Therefore, by talking to others in your protected class, you may discover that the unfair treatment is more widespread than you anticipated. If this is the case, then make sure that you’re taking notes and preparing for legal action.
- How does your employer respond? If you have issues with your evaluation, then you should be sure to raise those with your employer. But make sure that you’re writing down how your employer responds. After all, this conversation may shed more light on your employer’s justifications for rating you the way that it did. This may end up giving you more ammunition to proceed with a legal claim.
Are you ready to build your case?
A bad performance appraisal and subsequent negative employment action can take you by surprise. It can also leave your career stunted and your financial standing rocked. But you don’t have to sit back and accept what has been thrown at you.
Instead, you can prepare yourself to fight for some accountability and to recover the compensation that you need to make the matter right. That may sound daunting, but don’t let the challenges ahead paralyze you into inaction. After all, there are competent legal teams out there that are ready to help you craft legal arguments and fight for a just outcome.