By Mary Willis
What’s that old expression? “If you want to hide something from a Black person, put it in a book.” (or some say, “write it down”)
There’s long been a stereotype that Black people don’t like to read. The thinking is that Black folks prefer to rely on oral communication to document history and to communicate, in general. We supposedly don’t like to write and we don’t like to read.
The harsh reality is that proving racial discrimination, harassment or retaliation at work requires a worker to become a voracious reader, as well as a person who consistently documents everything happening around them.
What are some of the things you should document?
–every race-based incident of discrimination, harassment or retaliation;
–a list of everyone who witnessed your mistreatment or was present for words or actions that demonstrate discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation in the workplace;
–every false allegation of performance deficiencies;
–every false allegation that you have personality deficiencies (e.g., falsely accused of being extremely rude or negative);
–a hostile work environment (e.g., heightened scrutiny and observation, physical or verbal abuse, nasty and offensive emails).
What are some of the documents you should be sure to carefully read?
–emails or memos making false allegations about poor work performance;
–emails making any type of negative claims about your personality;
–instructions for performing work/completing assignments, especially assignments from a difficult/racist coworker or supervisor;
–your job description (you may be accused of failing to do things that aren’t a part of your job or you may be exceeding the requirements of your job by performing work that is at the next level in your career path); and
–your personnel manual (explains your employee rights, contains specifics on discrimination, harassment and retaliation, dictates how your employer should evaluate employees, explains how supervisors should handle workplace disputes, should provide details on internal investigations, etc.).
These are just examples, but they are very important pieces of information to document or to carefully read. When you are in the midst of issues at work, you have to face up to what you are being accused of and you have to immerse yourself in it. You can’t ignore what’s being written about you because these documents ARE going into your employee file and will likely come back to haunt you before or during your next performance evaluation.
I’ll admit that it’s hard to read lies about yourself. However, that’s what you must do in order to have any chance of prevailing against your employer. You have to know every lie they’re telling about you like the back of your hand. And, you have to be able to manipulate that lie into reality–into the truth.
If you seek assistance from an outside investigator or lawyer, how will they be able to tell what is true and what is a lie? They don’t work with you. They don’t know your character, work ethic, etc. You will have to lead them to the truth and present a compelling version of events that would encourage an investigator to launch a full-scale investigation or a lawyer to accept your case as having merit.
So, you must read every email, memo, etc. And, you must show the lies and half-truths by presenting evidence, testimony, instructions, written policies, org charts, job descriptions, etc. that show you have a basis for your complaint.
Its is very important to really read documentation you receive because there isn’t a single targeted employee who can afford to go around skimming emails and memos.
The documentation we receive at work may contain lots of places to exploit an employer’s words and actions based on what they’ve written and what they’ve said in the past.