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3 Biggest Mistakes Made by Victims of Employment Discrimination

Having practiced now for twenty years, I've seen many a good employment discrimination case ruined or severely damaged, not because the employee was not the victim of discrimination but because of mistakes made after the discrimination occurred.  Here are the top three ways to ruin or damage your case if you have been the victim of discrimination. 1.     Quitting. Quitting your job, that is.  I see this one all the time.  An employee is suffering from discrimination or retaliation.  The evidence is mounting that the employer is trying to get rid of the employee for an unlawful reason, and saddled with the weight of that knowledge and the accompanying anxiety, the employee quits.  Here's the problem with that.  As a general rule, the discrimination laws protect employees from ultimate adverse employment actions such as termination, failure to promote, pay cuts, etc. (there are exceptions but they go beyond the scope of this post).  "Constructive discharge"--quitting because of circumstances so intolerable a reasonable person would feel compelled to resign--is technically the same as termination, but it looks better on paper than in reality.  In reality, a constructive discharge is very difficult to prove and experienced attorneys tend to avoid taking such cases.  Talk to an employment lawyer before making a decision to quit. 2.     Going to the EEOC without a lawyer. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is made of great people who want to help you and will help you prepare and file a charge of discrimination, but they are generally not attorneys.  I've seen many good cases damaged because the right claims were not asserted in an EEOC charge or statements were made that should not have been made.  If you can't find a lawyer, sometimes you have to go to the EEOC on your own so you don't miss mandatory filing deadlines.  Otherwise, hire a lawyer first.  And, if you've already filed with the EEOC don't rely on the EEOC to represent you.  They don't.  They are investigators.  Seek legal representation. 3.     Not hiring an employment law specialist. Hiring a lawyer is not an easy task. There are more than 60,000 lawyers in Texas and more than 16,000 in Houston.  But the law has become highly specialized and no one can be an expert in every area or even many areas.  Employment law is a particularly difficult area for non-specialists.  It is very much law-driven, there are short and confusing statutes of limitations and proving a discriminatory motive is very difficult if you are not experienced at doing so.  I've had people come to me with otherwise good cases that had been handled by non-employment law specialists, and because of deadlines missed or the way the case had been litigated, the case had been so damaged I could not take it.  You don't go to a general physician or a heart specialist for a brain tumor.  Don't make this mistake with your employment law case. I hope this helps if you ever become the victim of employment discrimination.  GSF

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