What Can Keep an Employee from Reporting Discrimination?

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), there were 67,448 charges of discrimination filed during the 2020 fiscal year. While this is a large number, it’s actually down from the number of charges filed in previous years. Close to 100,000 charges are filed with the EEOC each year, and although this is a shockingly large number, it doesn’t encompass all employees who feel discriminated against. Not all employees who believe they’re experiencing discrimination file a report.

Unfortunately, we don’t know how many employees suffer due to employment discrimination but are unable to speak up about it. So, why might an employee experiencing discrimination not want to report it? There can be many reasons.

They Aren’t Aware of The Law

Various laws protect employees from discrimination at work. Obviously, this does not always stop it, and many forms of discrimination occur in industries all over the country. Employees may not know what rights and protections they have at work or what behaviors in the workplace are illegal. If an employee does not know what rights they are entitled to in the workplace, they may be unaware when these rights are violated. An employee may feel deeply hurt and unwelcome by these behaviors, but may not recognize it as discrimination or an illegal action they have protections from. This means that they also don’t know they have the right to report it.

There May Be Consequences for Reporting Discrimination

Reporting discrimination should lead to a better outcome for the person being discriminated against. However, this isn’t always the case. Employees need to feel safe reporting discrimination, and some workplaces make this difficult. An employee may be worried that things will only worsen for them, so reporting discrimination might not be worth it. They may be worried that people will treat them differently if they report a co-worker or supervisor or that the discriminatory behaviors will only increase.

Many employees are, unfortunately, correct in their beliefs that they’ll be punished for reporting discrimination. Employees may face retaliation in many forms, including disciplinary actions, demotions, and even termination for speaking up. Over 50% of the charges filed with the EEOC in 2020 were retaliation claims. However, employees need to be made aware that they have a right to report illegal actions in the workplace, such as discrimination. While fear of retaliation can silence an employee, it’s important that they know these actions are illegal and they can get help if it occurs.

Employees May Feel Invalidated

When you experience discrimination of any kind, you’re right to be upset over it, and your feelings should be heard. But what happens when people try to invalidate your feelings and attempt to convince you that nothing occurred that should cause you to be upset? Maybe you heard someone make derogatory comments at work, and when you brought it up, you were told that it was only a joke. When this happens, the employee can be made to feel that they’re in the wrong and being overly sensitive and dramatic.

They Fear No One Will Believe Them

Coming forward and reporting discrimination isn’t easy, and if someone thinks that no one will believe them, this could deter them from taking the steps to report it. In a workplace culture that allows discrimination to thrive, there may be no empathy for those discriminated against. If there have been previous instances of discrimination within a workplace and the employer failed to do anything about it, an employee might doubt that any actions will be taken for them.

Discrimination can also be very subtle and you may not know if you have the right evidence of it, making it difficult to prove. Employees may feel like there’s no reason to report discrimination at work if they believe that nothing will be done or they won’t be supported.

Contact Employment Discrimination Lawyers Who Can Help

Even when discrimination is causing you to suffer, reporting it is difficult for many reasons. Employees should feel safe and listened to in their workplaces. Sometimes they can’t achieve this on their own. At Bantle & Levy, we represent employees of all levels who have experienced discrimination in the workplace. We can help you through this process and can help you overcome the challenges that discrimination can cause.

Not reporting discriminatory behaviors and actions only allows them to continue, and you’ll only continue to hurt due to it. If you believe that you’re experiencing discrimination at work, contact a New York employment discrimination lawyer at Bantle & Levy today.

Bantle & Levy

Lee Bantle is a partner at Bantle & Levy LLP. He has extensive legal expertise, admitted to the bars of the U.S. District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals. With a distinguished academic background and clerkship experience, he has been recognized as a top-rated civil rights attorney and esteemed lawyer. In addition to his successful career, he has actively contributed to various legal organizations and serves as a faculty member for NYU's Annual Workshop on Employment Law for Federal Judges.

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