Even if you don’t know the legal name, you know its use. Maybe it was meant to soften the blow of a breakup. “It’s not you. It’s me.” Or to justify firing you, or not giving you that raise or promotion. Regardless of what you call it – ploy, ruse, guise — it’s discrimination. Oh, the legal name in employment law is pretext.


Knowledge Is a Tool


Recognizing pretext when you hear it gives you a valuable advantage. You don’t have to be Mother Jones to protect your rights. You don’t have to be a crusader. Just be informed.


“Knowledge is power” is a catchy phrase but born a little prematurely. Dale Carnegie matured it. “Knowledge isn’t power until it is applied.” Knowledge of your rights is an invaluable tool to keep at the ready.


Educate Yourself


The U.S. News and World Report article by Maryalene LaPonsie, “Workplace Laws Your Employer May Be Violating,” is an excellent first stop to educate yourself on your rights as an employee. There may be several workplace laws being violated by your employer as we speak. LaPonsie points out eight common violations committed by employers, either on purpose or by accident. They are:


  • Improper job interview questions.
  • Forbidding discussion of pay among employees.
  • Not paying overtime.
  • Enticing interns with a paid position following their internship.
  • Having hourly employees work off the clock.
  • Designating employees as contract workers.
  • Acting against employees for complaining about work on social media.
  • Ignoring a hostile workplace environment.


LaPonsie provides additional details for each of the eight violations given above that will afford you more in-depth knowledge of your employee rights. One area you may want to take note of that LaPonsie does not mention is that of gender discrimination.


Use Your Knowledge


You probably hope you never need to use this knowledge on the job. But if an incident occurs or the occasion arises, what is the best course of action to follow? LaPonsie suggests contacting your supervisor or HR person. Even small businesses should have an HR presence. If these are not an option for whatever reason, seek out an employment law attorney. Many offer free consultations and work on a contingency basis.


Now that you understand pretext you will be better able to address not only challenges at work but also that significant other who wants to fire you.