Some employees who work in New Jersey are victimized at work. Unfortunately, some people don’t recognize that there is a problem until victimization has already occurred. Supervisors should know the signs of workplace victimization to protect their employees. Here is what you need to understand about this problem from the attorneys at Swartz Swidler.
Understanding the Types of Discrimination
Prohibited workplace discrimination occurs when someone is discriminated against based on their protected characteristics. It can occur directly when a person is treated differently than other employees based on their protected characteristics or when a facially neutral policy or rule disproportionally and negatively impacts a group.
Discrimination can also take the form of harassment, including hostile or unwelcome behavior, based on the person’s protected characteristics. People can suffer victimization when they are harassed or treated unfairly because they have complained about equal opportunities in the workplace.
Discrimination can also be intentional or unintentional. Intentional discrimination occurs when people are consciously and deliberately treated differently based on their protected characteristics. Unintentional discrimination can occur through the creation of a workplace environment or policies that are unfavorable for members of a protected class.
Systemic discrimination exists as a part of an organization’s structure, including its practices, policies, and behavioral patterns that perpetuate unfavorable treatment of members of a protected group. Finally, reverse discrimination occurs when the members of a protected group receive preferential treatment over others.
Understanding Workplace Victimization
Workplace victimization occurs when a worker is treated unfavorably because they made a complaint or supported another worker’s complaint about how people with protected characteristics are treated in the workplace.
For example, if an employee complains about sexual harassment in the workplace to the human resources department, the act of complaining is protected. If the employee is then left out of training opportunities and meetings because of the complaint, that would amount to unlawful victimization. Victimization could also occur when an employee reports discrimination against others in the workplace. For example, if someone supported the employee’s complaint of sexual harassment by providing evidence and is subsequently demoted for participating in the investigation, that would also amount to victimization.
How to Recognize Workplace Victimization
The following signs might indicate that victimization is occurring in the workplace:
- Being excluded from work activities
- Receiving excessive and unreasonable workloads
- Being treated differently than others
- Having responsibilities taken away
- Being targeted by offensive or demeaning comments
Impact of Victimization on Employees
Employees who are victimized often feel isolated and anxious. They might experience trouble concentrating on their work and lose trust in their employer and co-workers. This can cause a decrease in productivity, lowered morale, and increased absenteeism.
Victimization can also negatively impact the employee’s health. When someone is constantly treated badly, it can cause a variety of health conditions related to stress, including insomnia, headaches, and ulcers. In some cases, being victimized can cause an employee to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
How Employers Can Prevent Victimization
Employers should have zero-tolerance policies for workplace discrimination and should also take steps to prevent an employee from being victimized. To do so, employers should create clear policies that address the types of behavior that are expected in the workplace to prevent abusive behavior and facilitate a culture of respect. Employers should regularly train their employees about workplace victimization and other types of discrimination to help employees understand and identify the signs so they can report problems. They should also encourage employees to come forward when they have concerns and have policies that encourage open lines of communication. Finally, when employers receive complaints about workplace discrimination, they should immediately investigate what happened and avoid doing anything to treat the complainant or witnesses unfavorably. If an employer finds that an employee engaged in unlawful discrimination, they should take corrective action to resolve the problem.
What Employees Can Do to Protect Themselves
If you are the victim of illegal discrimination or witness it in the workplace, you have a right to report it. File a complaint with your human resources department or the designated party in your workplace who handles complaints in your employer’s policies. If you file a complaint, you have the right to be free from retaliation and victimization.
While it might be hard to complain, you should remember that you have rights as an employee. If your employer subsequently retaliates against you, you can take additional steps. The first thing you can do is try to handle the problem internally by confronting the person who is retaliating against you. If that doesn’t work, report the victimizing behavior to your supervisor or the human resources department. Document all incidents that occur with dates, witnesses, and times. This can help you if you later have to file a legal action by creating documentary evidence.
If your employer does nothing, you should talk to an attorney. A lawyer can help you file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Finally, a lawyer can help you file a retaliation lawsuit if necessary to protect your rights.
Contact an Employment Lawyer at Swartz Swidler
If you believe you are being victimized at your job because of filing a discrimination complaint or participating in an investigation, you should speak to Swartz Swidler. Call us at 856-685-7420 for a free consultation.