Four or five moments - that's all it takes to become a hero. Everyone thinks it's a full-time job. Wake up a hero. Brush your teeth a hero. Go to work a hero. Not true. Over a lifetime there are only four or five moments that really matter. Moments when you're offered a choice to make a sacrifice, conquer a flaw, save a friend - spare an enemy. In these moments everything else falls away...
— Colossus from the film “Deadpool”
When people ask me what it is like to have a career as an employment law attorney representing employees, I tell them it is a calling to work with heroes.
Any victim of harassment or bullying knows that it is hard to stand up for yourself in the face of intimidation and aggression. It is much easier to hope that the whole thing will blow over and that one can somehow become invisible to the bully, bigot, racist or homophobe.
My clients, people that I work with every day, are heroes because they are courageous in the face of workplace harassment. They summon their nerves and stand up for their rights. They understand that their work environment will not get better until they do something about it. hey have the courage to complain.
State and Federal law often requires that a victim of harassment, discrimination or retaliation to made an internal complaint prior to quitting or getting fired. Failure to stand up for oneself and raise a complaint may result in losing one’s ability to bring a claim under our anti-discrimination or whistleblowing laws. The following are examples of situations where the law may require a victim to stand up for his or her rights and raise an internal complaint with human resources or other company-designated person:
- Harassment or discrimination because of prejudice based upon race, sex, gender, age, disability, nation of origin or other protected status.
- Workplace accidents and related requests for medical treatment.
- Health or safety hazards in the workplace.
- Requests for family medical leave for oneself or to care for an immediate family member.
- Requests for a reasonable accommodation to be able to perform the essential tasks of one’s job.
- Workplace violence against yourself or others.
- Retaliation for raising a complaint of unlawful harassment or discrimination.
- Coming forward as a witness to support a good faith claim of a co-employee.
The good news is that you don’t have to walk this path alone. Consider consulting with an experienced employment law attorney prior to raising an internal complaint. An attorney can guide you through this process and help in the following ways:
- Ensuring your compliance with complaint procedures
- Helping you guard against retaliation or the threat of losing your job
- Referring you to appropriate professionals who may alleviate the overwhelming stress and anxiety that you are dealing with at work
- Representing you in a court litigation or through alternative dispute resolution means (such as mediation, arbitration, or negotiation).