How do you Deal with Unfair Treatment at Work?

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In an ideal world, we would all be able to work in places where we genuinely felt valued, appreciated, and respected by our employers and our co-workers. People would treat one another fairly, and workplaces would be spaces in which we could all thrive, grow, and contribute to our fullest potential. Sometimes, this is, in fact, the case, and those workplaces are wonderful places for employees to pursue their career dreams and goals. In other cases, unfortunately, some employees find themselves in exactly the opposite environment – in a work situation in which they feel they are being treated unfairly by either their employer, their co-workers, or both.

In these cases, the question often arises – how exactly should employees deal with unfair treatment at work? How much unfair treatment is too much? When should an employee “wait it out” or attempt to find a resolution on their own, and when should additional action – perhaps even legal action – be considered as a possibility? These are important questions, and ones for which there are, unfortunately, not always simple answers.

Fortunately, however, there are some generally helpful steps you can take when you find yourself experiencing unfair and/or discriminatory treatment that can help you move forward toward remedying the situation and creating a healthier, more respectful and more productive workplace for all. Some of these steps include:

  • Think Through the Situation: The truth of the matter is that we don’t always get along with everyone. Some people just aren’t our cup of tea, so to speak – and that’s okay. In a working environment, however, it’s important to think through your personal feelings about others, and to objectively look at how they may or may not be affecting your view of a particular situation. Do you simply have a personality conflict with your supervisor or with a co-worker that makes working with that person less than enjoyable? Or is that person truly treating you unfairly, harassing you, or discriminating against you? One is grounds for pursuing additional action, and the other is not. It is definitely worth thinking through your particular set of circumstances to determine what might truly be the issue prior to deciding which are the next best steps to take. If, after thinking it through on your own you continue to feel unsure, it can never hurt to ask for an objective opinion from someone else you trust at work. After you determine whether or not the behavior truly does seem to be unfair or discriminatory, you can decide how to move forward.
  • Review and Understand Your Company Policies: As you consider whether or not you will bring your concerns to a supervisor, co-worker, or to human resources, it can be helpful to review your company policies simply as an attempt to familiarize yourself with what types of behaviors are prohibited and who the appropriate individuals are to report those behaviors to.
  • Keep a Record: If you believe you are experiencing unfair or discriminatory treatment in your workplace, keep a detailed record of the times when you experience that treatment. Include as many specific details as possible: the date, time, location, and who was involved when the unfair and/or discriminatory treatment occurred.
  • Speak to Your Supervisor: Speaking to an immediate supervisor about your concerns (provided that the supervisor is not the person you believe is treating you unfairly) is always an important step, not only in documenting the negative behavior you are experiencing, but also because your supervisor will be able to either take necessary action or direct you to the appropriate individual in human resources or elsewhere at your place of employment who would best be able to help.
  • Take the Matter to Human Resources: If you do not have a direct supervisor, if your supervisor is the individual committing the discriminatory and/or unfair behavior, or if your company policy indicates that human resources is the first and best place to report such behavior, be sure to do so as soon as possible. Your company’s human resource officers may be able to help remedy the situation or direct you as to the next best steps to take to move forward toward doing so.
  • Consider Legal Action: In some cases, despite taking all of the aforementioned steps, you may simply find yourself unable to resolve the behaviors that are making your work environment less than the productive, safe, respectful place that you deserve. In these circumstances, your best course of action may be to pursue any legal remedies that may be available to you. Certainly, if you choose this path, you will want to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced attorney – one who understands the complexities of the law that may be involved and the best legal strategies to pursue the compensation that you deserve. While legal action may be time-consuming and may bring its own amount of stress, it can often be worth it when you have exhausted all other available courses of action.

In an ideal world, no one would experience discriminatory or unfair behavior in the workplace – but it does happen. When it does, pursuing the aforementioned steps can help you (and your employer) to move toward a healthier, more respectful, more productive working environment for everyone involved. In that scenario, everyone comes out better in the long run.

The Smithey Law Group LLC Difference

At Smithey Law Group LLC, labor and employment law is our passion. We have practiced extensively in this area for years, and have pursued justice effectively on behalf of countless satisfied clients. We believe that all employees deserve to work in a place where they feel that they are respected, valued, and treated fairly. And it is our honor to represent clients as they attempt to assert those rights. We would welcome the opportunity to represent you as well, and would be eager to hear your story and learn how we might be able to help. Call us today – we look forward to speaking with you soon.  

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Joyce Smithey, a seasoned employment and labor law attorney, has over 22 years of experience representing both employers and employees in Maryland and D.C. Her practice, rooted in a deep understanding of employment law, spans administrative hearings to federal litigation. Joyce's approach is comprehensive, focusing on protecting client interests while ensuring legal compliance. A Harvard graduate, her career began in Fortune 500 companies, transitioning to law after a degree from Boston University School of Law. Joyce's expertise is recognized by numerous awards, including Maryland’s Top 100 Women. At Smithey Law Group LLC, which she founded in 2018, Joyce continues to champion employment rights, drawing on her rich background in law and business.

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