Employment discrimination comes in many forms, but all have lasting effects on the targeted victim. If you feel you're currently experiencing this unfair treatment in the workplace, you may be asking yourself how to know if you have a valid case. This is an important question to answer because not all types of discrimination are prohibited under federal law.
Read on to learn what makes employment discrimination cases valid and what you can do to get justice for your mistreatment at work.
Determining if You Have an Employment Discrimination Case
As mentioned previously, discrimination comes in various forms and affects workers from all walks of life. Federal law currently prohibits employers from discriminating against their employees in the following categories:
- Race or national origin
- Gender identity
- Sexual orientation
- Genetic information
To better assess whether you have been discriminated against or not, a reputable employment discrimination lawyer is your best resource. You can also ask yourself some of the following questions to better understand if what you're experiencing at work is a valid cause to pursue an employment discrimination case.
What Actions are Considered Employment Discrimination?
In the workplace, discrimination frequently involves an employee being treated differently. Typically, they are given less favorable opportunities or treatment than their peers for reasons prohibited by law. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) outlines what classes are protected from the following types of mistreatment while on the job:
- Unfair/discriminatory treatment
- Retaliation for an employee taking action against the employer
- Improper questioning or demands for disclosure of sensitive genetic/medical details
- Improper denial of reasonable workplace accommodations because of an employee's disability or beliefs
Federal Laws That Protect You From Employment Discrimination
While not every form of workplace discrimination is covered under federal law, you may have a case if your employment discrimination case is based on your rights under a protected class.
Below are some of the primary federal laws in place that offer you protection from workplace mistreatment:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) is legislation that prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on their:
- National origin
This act also doesn't allow employers to discriminate against pregnant women or have pregnancy/childbirth-related medical issues.
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) offers protections to those who are older than 40 years who experience adverse employment actions because of their age.
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 both prohibit discrimination against the disabled.
In addition to federal protections, your local and state laws may also provide you with additional rights against employment discrimination based on your immigration status, language you speak, family obligations, and more. Speak with a seasoned employment discrimination attorney at Morgan & Morgan about your situation to find out more.
Types of Employment Discrimination Cases
Below is a brief overview of the types of employment discrimination cases that workers have brought against their employers. These examples can help you better understand if the mistreatment you are experiencing at work violates federal, state, or local anti-discrimination laws.
Discriminatory Treatment and/or Intent
Employees treated unfairly by their employer compared to other workers because of their status as a protected class member can file a lawsuit for discriminatory treatment.
Disparate Impact Suit
When an employment rule, practice, or policy is discriminatory in nature, even if unintended, this could give you grounds for a disparate impact suit if you suffered damages. It's illegal for employers to implement policies and procedures that harm a protected class more than other peers in the workplace.
An example of this would be if a warehouse required employees to be of a minimum height or had a specific minimum weight lifting capability. This would cause a significant number of female applicants for the job to be ruled out and certain minority groups.
Disparate Treatment Claims
Disparate treatment is the intentional singling out of certain protected classes and discriminating against them. For example, suppose your company only requires African-Americans or immigrants to undergo background checks during the hiring process. In that case, this means only those minorities would be eliminated based on those assessment results. This gives an unfair advantage to others applying for work that doesn't fall into these two categories of being discriminated against.
One of the most serious cases that can be brought against an employer is a workplace retaliation lawsuit. This is conduct where an employer intentionally mistreats a worker because they filed a complaint of discrimination against the company. If you have suffered adverse actions against yourself because of a complaint you filed seeking relief, speak with an attorney immediately.
Evidence Needed to Prove Employment Discrimination Cases
When you hire Morgan & Morgan to represent your employment discrimination case, there are two primary types of evidence we use to prove your allegations:
One of the best ways our employment discrimination attorneys can prove your claims of being mistreated at work is direct evidence. This type of proof often includes witness testimony and statements from your superiors and coworkers that may have been directly part of any adverse action you experienced that was based on your protected class.
An example of direct evidence will be if you're informed that you are being fired because your company wants younger employees in your role who can reshape the brand's image, but you know it's because you are close to retiring. If you have emails, memos, notes, letters, or have had verbal comments made to you that indicate concern about your retiring and paying the benefits you've earned over the years, and this could be proof of age discrimination.
This is indirect evidence when you have evidence that didn't come directly from your employer but show that employment discrimination is a reasonably assumed cause for your mistreatment.
Many employment discrimination cases involve circumstantial evidence like this because being able to get direct proof your boss hates a particular minority class and goes out of his way to fire them is unlikely. People in positions of authority are well aware of their legal obligations not to mistreat employees, so they must go through sophisticated means instead.
How Employers Defend Against Employment Discrimination Cases
When your attorney establishes a presumption of employment discrimination, the court will allow your employer to defend against your allegations with a legitimate reason that should be non-discriminatory. The frustrating aspect of this is they don't have to prove that the reason they give the court is valid; they only have to provide a legal excuse.
With all the information submitted from you, the plaintiff, and your employer, the defendant, the court will have to decide if their reason is legitimate. Fortunately, when your company submits its reason for mistreating you, your attorney can submit additional proof of their discriminatory intent and actions. But, even with direct evidence, this isn't a guarantee you will receive a favorable ruling to your discrimination claim. The law requires only a legal reason, not necessarily the actual one. This is why you need to build a solid case of undeniable evidence that proves not just that they did discriminate against you but that there was intent to do so.
Proving an Employer's Policy Caused Discriminatory Effects
Disparate impact suits are very similar to discriminator intent cases. These often require you to provide enough circumstantial evidence to support your assumption that your employer's policies discriminated against your protected class. When you do this, your employer will have a chance to show the court how their policy/rule/practice was necessary to the business and job-related.
Even if they can justify such a policy being in place, you may still be able to show that they refused to adopt an alternative that would have had less of a disparate impact. Strategies like this can potentially help you win your case.
What Damages Could Be Awarded in Employment Discrimination Cases?
The effects of employment discrimination go further than interfering with your career ambitions. At Morgan & Morgan, we have helped clients whose financial, emotional, and physical well-being was devastated. If you successfully bring a lawsuit against your employer for employment discrimination, you could be entitled to the following damages:
When you lose earnings because of employment discrimination, you are entitled to receiving those wages from the date of the original act.
Another aspect of employment discrimination damages is the benefits you potentially lost. Whether it be health care or profit-sharing opportunities, you deserve to be compensated if workplace mistreatment costs you benefits.
One of the heaviest tolls a mistreated worker endures is emotional distress. The court may grant monetary damages for emotional injuries because of the discrimination you suffered at work.
Another damage you might qualify for is known as front pay. This compensation includes future earnings you lost as a result of workplace discrimination.
Some forms of employment discrimination are so egregious the court imposes punitive damages to punish them for their actions and dissuade others from committing similar acts.
Courts may also award the legal costs you accrued pursuing your case, which could include your attorney's fees, as well as the expense of witnesses and filing costs.