Do I have to hire an attorney to escape a Discriminatory Hostile Work Environment?
Updated: Mar 2
In this blog post I offer my opinion on whether an attorney is needed to escape a Discriminatory Hostile Work Environment.
This blog post may piss off some employment attorneys. I’m ok with that.
Many clients that come to me tell me that they did not report discrimination at work because they thought they needed a lawyer to do it. Others tell me they did not think they could request a separation with severance without an attorney so they didn’t because they can’t afford an attorney. Others simply tell me they thought they needed an attorney to leave a bad workplace and since they couldn’t afford one, they just quit and tried to put the entire bad experience behind them.
Here is my honest opinion: You do not have to hire an attorney to escape a discriminatory hostile work environment.
With the right advice and strategy, you can do it on your own, IF you are still working in the hostile work environment.
When do I think you absolutely need to hire an attorney? Here are some instances where it may make sense for you to hire an attorney to deal with a discriminatory hostile workplace:
• If you have been terminated by your employer and you believe the termination was wrongful and illegal/unlawful based on documented incidents of discrimination
• If you seek to negotiate a separation with severance from your employer and they refuse to cooperate, and you have effectively documented incidents of illegal or unlawful discrimination
• You want to sue your employer because you want to make public that they discriminated against you
If you are still employed by a company engaging in discriminatory behavior toward you, you do not have to hire an attorney to address their behavior. You can, but you don’t have to.
However, you should not seek to raise a claim with HR without a strategy and plan and you should get sound advice before seeking a separation agreement with severance. If you do not know how to craft a plan to seek separation with severance, I do not recommend trying to do it on your own. You would be better off seeking legal counsel than trying to do it alone.
But if you choose to educate yourself you CAN leave a bad or even discriminatory workplace without filing a lawsuit. But it is critical that you:
• Know how to identify unlawful discrimination.
• Know how to effectively document a discriminatory hostile workplace;
• Know how to report a discriminatory hostile workplace to HR;
• Know how to request separation with severance from a discriminatory hostile workplace; and
• Know how to negotiate any offered separation with severance to ensure the terms are not just good for your employer but also good for you
I teach all of these steps in The Hostile Work Environment Escape Strategy Webinar Series. It is now on sale for a limited time.
I also work with clients one on one to help them escape hostile work environments. I apply my over 20 years of experience working, managing and overseeing Human Resource to do this NOT my legal education.
I have nothing against attorneys, especially employment lawyers who exclusively represent employees, they are doing God’s work in my opinion. As I said, I am a licensed attorney myself. But hiring an attorney is not your only option.
There are attorneys who will take your discrimination claim and help you without any upfront cost but others will expect you to pay a retainer and upfront cost. When you hire an attorney, they are going to prepare you for litigation. That’s their job. It can take some time but it may be worth it to you depending on your situation.
However, most of my clients do not want to go through a lengthy legal process. They want to leave their bad workplace as promptly as possible but they do not want to leave empty handed. I work with them to put them in the driver’s seat and empower them to effectively communicate their concerns to HR and walk away on their terms.
I had a client who had been paying an attorney for over a year to help her deal with a discriminatory hostile workplace. The attorney was helping her build a case to take to court. She came to me because the situation was resulting in both mental and physical issues for her. She wanted out expeditiously. I worked with her and in 3 weeks she had a negotiated separation with severance worth six figures. This is not representative of all client outcomes AND I don’t think her attorney’s approach was wrong, but she didn’t want to go to court, she just wanted to walk away expeditiously. I helped her do that. And I took none of her separation package. She paid me a flat consulting fee and what she got from her employer remained in her pocket. She is now happily pursuing her life as a self-employed entrepreneur.
I tell you this story to say whether you will need an attorney to deal with a discriminatory workplace very much depends on the outcome you are seeking.
But as a Black Woman who has survived multiple hostile, toxic and discriminatory workplaces, I recognize that WE often just want to walk away with our souls intact. But we want to do it on our terms with as little stress as possible. When a client wants to file a lawsuit, I give them an employment lawyer referral and wish them well. Filing a lawsuit is better than just quitting and letting your employer off the hook for their wrongdoing. But it is not the only way to exit -- you have options. It’s most important that you know what they are and exercise them.
Having multiple months or even years of pay at your disposal provides you with the option to:
• Start your own business
• Take your time finding a job that is the right fit and the right work environment
• Take time off to just breathe and recover from the trauma of working in a discriminatory hostile work environment
• None of the above or all of the above.
I don’t encourage my clients or discourage my clients from lawyering up or suing.
One of the first questions I always ask in a discovery call is “what is the outcome you are seeking? Because I want my clients to pursue whatever reasonable and realistic outcome there is that works for them.
The most important thing for you to be is an educated employee. Know your rights at work and be ready to raise them effectively and strategically with HR.
In my opinion employees can walk away from discriminatory hostile work environments with a separation with severance without ever having to file a legal claim. I know this because I have helped many of them do just that.
After working managing and overseeing HR for 20+ years I know for a fact that an educated employee is the most dangerous thing there is in an American workplace.
An employee that knows their rights and knows how to assert those rights effectively scares the hell out of HR.
I want you to know how to navigate the workplace and how to assert your rights in the workplace. That might include hiring an attorney where appropriate.
But know that hiring an attorney is not your only choice. Educate yourself and know all your options.
Learn how to navigate your workplace in a way that protects not only your rights but your well-being.
That’s why I do what I do.
I want you to know all of your options. Not just the ones that will result in you hiring me.
If you need help navigating a discriminatory hostile work environment, or you want to get out of one, perhaps with some severance pay, Book a HWEES Discovery Call.
For more tips about navigating and escaping difficult HR situations,
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HR is not your enemy but they are definitely not your friend, I am.
I am the AntiHR, HRLady and I’m here to help.