Despite legislative reforms, discrimination based on age, religion, race, ethnicity, gender and disability remains prevalent in modern working environments.
Recent statistics confirm disappointing trends in this regard:
- full-time average weekly earnings of women are 16.2% less than their male counterparts
- the gender pay gap in ASX 200 organisations is 28.7%
- 25% of Australians aged over 50 suffer workplace discrimination; and
- people with disabilities are more likely to be unemployed than people without disability.
The stress experienced by victims of discrimination is often debilitating and most do not know where to turn for help.
There are however, some practical steps victims can take to alleviate stress, take decisive action and give themselves the best prospects of establishing a case if they need to take legal action.
What to Do If You Are A Victim of Workplace Discrimination
Talk it out
Simply talking about the situation with someone else can relieve an enormous amount of stress and free up your mind. Try to avoid talking to a workmate, no matter how close you are. Rather, choose a neutral unbiased party who can provide practical advice.
Remember, not all inappropriate incidents in the workplace are legally actionable and not all unfair treatment is unlawful discrimination. It is therefore important to try to determine early on, whether your complaint involves an an isolated event that you can move on from, or behaviour serious enough to warrant either leaving your employment or escalating the matter.
Develop an action plan
If the matter is serious enough to make you want to quit, you need to consider whether that is a practical option or whether your job is worth fighting for. If you are close to retirement, peaking in your career, or if employment opportunities are limited, escalating the matter may be your only option.
The next thing to decide is whether you will attempt to resolve the issue personally through discussions with the offender and HR. Often this is a good first step. If this proves to be unsuccessful or if you feel it would be a fruitless exercise you have the option of engaging a lawyer to take action on your behalf.
The first thing a lawyer will advise you to do is document everything. Make notes of all interactions and incidents with the offending party including dates and what was said. Collect records of all conversations and other relevant documents such as performance reviews and your employer’s discrimination policies.
Seek legal advice
Chatting with a lawyer early on in the piece can help you to identify your legal rights and entitlements and all of the options available to you to address the matter. Allowing a lawyer to handle the situation can also alleviate stress.
If you are dismissed from your employment or you have suffered serious discrimination it is highly recommended that you seek legal advice as soon as possible. Strict time limits, some as short as 21 days, may apply to bringing your legal action. This means that if you delay, you can lose your right to bring a legal action altogether.
Where can get advice?
If you think you have been discriminated against in your workplace, chat with us about your options now.