Workplace discrimination victims often settle and stay silent

People in Tennessee who suffer discrimination or sexual harassment at work face many obstacles when trying to obtain justice for the wrongs done to them. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, out of 54,810 cases between January 2009 and July 2017, 42,825 settled out of court. The details of these settlements are private, and settlements like these often require affected employees to remain silent or face financial consequences.

Nondisclosure agreements within these settlements legally demand silence from the accusers. A person who spoke to the media anonymously said that her former employer would bankrupt her with a lawsuit if she discussed the subject. She accepted the agreement because she was about to lose her home and needed what money she could get.

Employers also make preemptive moves to prevent discrimination complaints from reaching the light of day. As a condition of employment, people sometimes have to sign contracts that require private arbitration and bar them from ever taking their cases to a public court. Sterling Jewelers used this tactic to keep hundreds of complaints and statements from employees secret for nine years.

Although contracts, financial pressure and procedural delays might impose barriers on people who lost their jobs or suffered mistreatment because of workplace discrimination, the law does prohibit certain employers from discriminating on the basis of sex, religion, race and national origin. A person might benefit from consulting an attorney to learn about his or her rights and how to approach an employer with a complaint. An attorney might review any employment contracts that might be in place and advise the person about options for challenging discrimination. If filing a lawsuit appears appropriate, an attorney may organize evidence from workplace communications, payroll records and testimony from witnesses and prepare the paperwork for court.

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