How do I know if I have been harassed or discriminated against at work?


When you are in the workplace, there exists an expectation that you be treated well. Unfortunately, that is not always going to be the case, and for certain groups, they face an even greater chance of being harassed or discriminated against at work. One of the big problems for these people is, however, that there has been plenty of conditioning done to make it confusing whether they were even the victims of harassment or discrimination at work.

How to tell if you have been harassed or discriminated against at work

Harassment and discrimination comes in many forms for many reasons. Harassment and discrimination against someone's race, transgender status, gender, sexuality, religion, income level, these kinds of abuse are too common. A big problem with harassment and discrimination is that it is not really obvious. When someone tells a deeply inappropriate joke, or touches someone in an inappropriate way, these are obvious signs of harassment. And for discrimination, it is never as simple as "we're firing you because of your skin color." It's typically fairly subtle, and as such, people may be misled into keeping quiet. Even if you are friends with the person who committed the harassment or discrimination, this does not mean that it could not happen. After all, just because you like them does not mean that they couldn't do something untoward towards you.

A good way to know if you were discriminated against at your workplace is to check out who tends to do well at this workplace. For example, let's say that you are a black woman, and you were passed over for a promotion, despite being one of the best performers at your company. Yet, when you look at who does get promoted, they tend to be white and/or male, and perhaps you can even identify that some of them have done a lot less to get to where they are than you have. In this case, it may be worthwhile to look into a lawyer about this, as you may have been subject to discrimination. Granted, this can happen to you even if you are a white man, but statistically speaking, black women tend to experience a larger pay gap than most other groups in the workplace.

The risks associated with coming forward

One of the worst things about workplace harassment and discrimination is that it is all too common for your co-workers to fall victim to the bystander effect, where a person feels that they do not need to report the incident, because someone else (including the victim) surely did. Because so many people fall victim to this effect, it means that you see it happen to most, if not all, of the observers. This is common in the workplace, due to how people have been taught to keep their nose out of these kinds of problems, and it becomes even worse if the workplace is specifically one where they have learned that reporting harassment and discrimination at work can result in the crosshair being placed on them. It is sadly too common to see someone come to the defense of a person who has been harassed or discriminated against, only to face these things themselves, or worse, lose their job entirely. This can also apply to the victim if they come forward.

Now, some may question this risk, arguing that it is illegal to fire someone as retribution for reporting abuse. You would be correct! Unfortunately, no matter how illegal it is, first you have to prove that the firing was illegal, and in Florida, that is somewhat harder than it is for other areas. You see, Florida is considered an "at will" state. This means that your place of work, and you can decide to determine the employment contract that's between the two of you at any time, without giving a reason.
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Of course, this does not mean that your employer has absolute power to fire anyone for an illegal reason and not have it come back to bite them in the butt.
Tampa employment lawyers have experience working in this exact area of employee abuse, and there are plenty of arguments that work quite well if you decide to hire employment lawyers and take your previous employer to court. For example, if your employer decides to write you up several times following the report in order to justify the firing, despite having few to no warnings prior to the report, this will serve as solid evidence that your employer did these write-ups for a duplicitous reason.


The reason a lot of victims of harassment and discrimination do not come forward, however, is due to confusion about it. As discussed above, it can be really hard to tell whether you even faced it, meaning that for all you know, you could report someone for behavior that you mistook for harassment or discrimination, causing social harm to that person in the process. While there is such a thing as misunderstandings, even if it is a misunderstanding, it is important that you be comfortable. And if behavior done in good faith is making you uncomfortable, you shouldn't be subjected to it regardless.