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What do I do when I witness discrimination at my job? How do I know if it’s even worth bringing up to my boss? How do I have a conversation with my supervisor about discrimination? All these questions might be going through your head right now, and that’s okay. Talking about discrimination may seem uncomfortable, especially at work. But if you have seen or experienced discrimination at work, it may be necessary. Fortunately, you can take steps to make things go smoothly and make sure your rights are protected. 

Do Some Research on How to Address Workplace Discrimination 

If it feels wrong, it probably is wrong. But, when filing a formal complaint about discrimination to your boss or supervisor, you don’t want to leave anything up to chance. Unfortunately, you cannot prove wrongdoing based on a feeling. So, before bringing up a case of discrimination to your supervisor, do a little research. Be prepared to discuss exactly what you saw or experienced. Identify the specific wrongdoing before going in. When you have the right knowledge, a conversation about discrimination can be a lot less intimidating. Here are some steps to take before talking to your boss: 

Identify The Right Person To Talk To About Workplace Discrimination 

What if your supervisor or boss was the person whom you saw committing the act of discrimination? Maybe you don’t feel safe or comfortable talking to them directly about it. Don’t worry. There are systems in place to protect you. Usually, your company would state in the employee handbook how to handle a discrimination complaint. They would lay out the chain of command that makes it easy to see whom you should go to. Familiarize yourself with this process if you can. If your company does not have this in place, a great place to start is the HR department. HR should be able to inform you about the process of filing your complaint and help you along the way. You will want to avoid talking to all of your coworkers about it because this creates gossip that could potentially invalidate your complaint. Although, if you have a specific trusted coworker and need some support, there is nothing wrong with reaching out. But, what if you go to HR and don’t receive help? What if you file your complaint, and your employer does nothing? 

When Talking About Discrimination Doesn’t Work 

Unfortunately, we see it every day. Someone goes through all the channels to respectfully file a report of discrimination with their employer. You were only trying to do what’s right. But then nothing is done. It can feel helpless. Maybe your supervisor or HR, the people who are supposed to be there to help you, brushed you off. Remember, discrimination in the workplace is a serious offense. It is wrong. If you have seen it happen or had it happen to you, you know how damaging it can be. Maybe you don’t even feel safe at work anymore. These are all signs that it’s time to take your case to the next level and speak with a lawyer. 

*Disclaimer: This article post is not meant to substitute for legal aid or give legal advice. If you or someone you know requires legal aid, please reach out to a qualified attorney. California Employee Advocates is not a law firm.