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Can I Sue My Employer for Unfair Treatment?

James S. Brewer Attorney at Law Jan. 29, 2024

When you feel you've been subjected to unfair treatment in your workplace, feelings of frustration, hurt, and injustice can accompany it. It's a situation no one wants to find themselves in. Yet, it's crucial to understand that you have rights, and you do not have to face this alone. If you are wondering if you can sue your employer for unfair treatment, you need to know your rights because the answer to this question is not as straightforward as you might think. It depends on the nature of the unfair treatment and whether it violates any federal or state laws.  

At my firm, I am committed to guiding you through this challenging process. I am an experienced employment law and workers' rights attorney, with years of experience and personal care to guide you. If you are in the Hartford, Connecticut, area — including New Haven, Bridgeport, and more — reach out to me today for guidance. I will carefully evaluate your situation, help you understand your rights, and determine whether the unfair treatment you've faced is a violation of any federal or state laws. My mission is to protect your rights and ensure that justice is served, bringing you peace of mind in a stressful situation.  

Defining Unfair Treatment

Generally, unfair treatment refers to the unjust, discriminatory, or prejudiced behavior towards an employee by coworkers, supervisors, or employers. However, it's important to remember that unfair treatment becomes actionable under the law only when it transgresses specific federal or state statutes.  

Unfair treatment in the workplace can take different forms, including: 

  • Discrimination: This is the act of treating an employee unfavorably on the basis of their race, color, religion, age, sex, national origin, disability, or genetic information. For instance, if an employer chooses not to promote an employee solely because of their religion, that is considered discrimination. 

  • Harassment: Harassment occurs when an employee is subjected to unwanted behaviors that create a hostile workplace. This might include offensive jokes, racial slurs, or even physical intimidation. For example, if a coworker incessantly makes derogatory jokes about another employee's race, leading to an uncomfortable and hostile work environment, it qualifies as harassment. 

  • Denial of Benefits or Promotion and Unequal Pay: This form of unfair treatment happens when an employer unjustly withholds opportunities, benefits, or equal pay from an employee based on discriminatory reasons. A case in point is when an employee is not promoted or is paid less than their peers, despite having similar responsibilities and performance levels. 

Whether it's discrimination, harassment, denial of benefits or promotion, or unequal pay, it's important to know that you don't have to endure such circumstances silently. There are federal and state laws in place to protect individuals from such unjust practices, and as an experienced employment law attorney, I am here to help you navigate these issues and fight for justice. However, as important as it is to understand what does count as unfair treatment, it is equally important to know what is not considered unfair treatment. 

When Can You NOT File for Unfair Treatment?

While it's true that unfair treatment in the workplace is a serious issue, there are certain circumstances where filing a lawsuit may not be possible, such as when it does not violate any federal or state laws.  

Even though it may feel like you've been treated unfairly, there are instances where the law does not provide grounds for a lawsuit. Here are some examples: 

  • Personal Dislike: If your boss or a coworker simply does not like you and treats you differently because of it, this is not necessarily illegal. Personal dislike or personality conflicts are not covered under discrimination laws unless they are combined with illegal behavior, such as discrimination or harassment based on a protected category. 

  • Perceived Injustice in Job Duties: If you believe that you have been given more work or harder tasks than your peers, this is not generally grounds for a lawsuit, unless you can prove it is due to discrimination based on a protected category. 

  • Unfair Treatment by Coworkers: The law typically protects against unfair treatment from employers or supervisors, not coworkers, unless the employer or supervisor is aware of the situation and does nothing to resolve it. 

  • Inconsistent Enforcement of Policies: Employers have a right to enforce their policies and procedures as they see fit, as long as they're not violating any laws. Inconsistent enforcement of policies, while frustrating, is not necessarily unlawful unless the enforcement is discriminatory or biased based on a protected class. 

Remember, while these situations might seem unfair, they may not be illegal. However, if you believe you are being treated unfairly and it's negatively affecting your work life, it would be beneficial to consult with an experienced employment law attorney. They can evaluate your situation and provide guidance about your options and potential next steps. 

What Does the Law State About Employees' Rights to Sue Their Employer?

Both federal and Connecticut laws provide employees with rights to sue their employers for unfair treatment. Under federal law, the main legislation protecting employees from unfair treatment is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This law prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. It also covers issues related to harassment and retaliation. 

In Connecticut, the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act (CFEPA) provides additional protections against unfair treatment in the workplace. CFEPA prohibits discrimination based on various characteristics, including race, color, religious creed, age, sex, gender identity or expression, marital status, national origin, ancestry, and disability. These laws are in place to protect your rights as an employee, and I'm here to help you understand and enforce those rights. 

How Do I Prove Unfair Treatment?

Proving unfair treatment in the workplace can be challenging, but it is not impossible. It requires careful documentation and evidence collection to build a strong case. Here are some steps you should consider: 

  • Document Everything: Maintain a detailed record of all incidents that contribute to the unfair treatment you're experiencing. This documentation could include emails, text messages, or any other written communication that supports your claim. Remember to note the dates, times, and locations of each incident, as well as the people involved.  

  • Identify Witnesses: If there are people who have witnessed the unfair treatment, they may be able to support your claim. Be sure to keep track of these individuals and note any pertinent incidents they may have observed. 

  • Compare Treatment: Evidence of unfair treatment often lies in comparing your treatment to that of other employees in similar positions. If colleagues with similar responsibilities and performance are being treated differently without a valid reason, this might indicate unfair treatment. 

  • Consult Human Resources: Report the incidents to your human resources department, following the company's prescribed procedure for such complaints. Keep records of these interactions and responses. 

  • Seek Legal Advice: Engage an experienced employment law attorney who can guide you through the intricacies of your case. They can assist you in gathering necessary evidence, understanding your rights and options, and determining the best course of action. 

Remember, every situation is unique, and these steps may vary depending on the circumstances. The key is to remain vigilant and proactive, ensuring you're doing all you can to protect your rights. Your attorney can help you discern when unfair treatment has occurred. 

The Legal Process

Once you've decided to pursue a lawsuit, your attorney will help you through the process, which involves several key steps: 

  1. Filing a Complaint: The first step is filing a complaint with the appropriate government agency. This complaint should detail the unfair treatment experienced. 

  1. Investigation: After filing a complaint, the agency will conduct an investigation to gather evidence. Having proof will be very helpful here. 

  1. Mediation or Settlement: In some cases, the agency may offer mediation or settlement options to resolve the dispute without going to court. 

  1. Issuance of Right-to-Sue: If the agency investigation does not result in a resolution, they may issue a Right-to-Sue letter. 

  1. Filing a Lawsuit: With the Right-to-Sue letter, the employee can proceed to file a lawsuit against their employer. 

  1. Discovery: During the discovery phase, both parties exchange relevant information and evidence related to the case. 

  1. Pre-Trial Motions: Before the trial, both parties may file motions to resolve certain legal issues or exclude evidence. 

  1. Trial: If the case proceeds to trial, both sides present their arguments and evidence to a judge or jury. 

  1. Appeals: If either party disagrees with the trial outcome, they may have the option to appeal the decision to a higher court. 

It's a complex process, but that's where I come in. My job is to guide you through each step, protecting your rights and making sure that your voice is heard. If you're dealing with unfair treatment at work, don't hesitate to reach out to my office — James S. Brewer Attorney at Law — in Hartford, Connecticut. Let's fight for your rights together.