Multiple Factor Employment Discrimination Lawyer
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What Does it Mean When Employment Discrimination has Multiple Factors?
America’s workplaces and communities have become increasingly diverse. Unfortunately, some employers and supervisors illegally discriminate against people of different colors, creeds, and abilities. Employment discrimination may be based on multiple factors. It is important that workers know how to identify and protect themselves against multiple factor discrimination.
What Is Multiple Factor Discrimination?
Federal, state, and municipal (city-based) laws prohibit discrimination against members of “protected classes.” Employers typically cannot discriminate against job applicants or employees based on:
- Gender and sexual identity,
- National Origin,
- Sexual orientation,
- Disability, and
- Genetic predisposition or carrier status.
Different communities have different protections. (For example, New York City offers broader protections than New York State.) Make sure you understand who is protected from discrimination in your community. If you need help, consider contacting a civil rights agency, like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), or a discrimination lawyer.
Sometimes, an employee or job candidate belongs to multiple protected classes. Because of this, employment discrimination may also be multifactorial. For example:
- A woman who requires a cane may be denied a job because of her gender and her need for accommodation. She may have claims under both Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Civil Rights Act.
- A Muslim employee from Yemen may be refused a promotion because of his religion and national identity (in violation of the Civil Rights Act).
If you are the victim of multiple forms of discrimination, it is important to report all of these violations.
Can I File a Claim That I Was Discriminated Against For Multiple Reasons?
If you were discriminated against because you belong (or are perceived to belong) to a protected class, you may have a discrimination claim. Depending on your employer’s violations, you may either have claims under federal, state, or municipal laws.
Most federal laws (except for the Equal Pay Act) require you to first file a complaint with the EEOC. You must file your complaint with one of the EEOC’s field offices (there is not an online form). However, the EEOC does offer an Assessment System that helps you complete an Intake Questionnaire and determine eligibility for EEOC assistance.
State and municipal laws have different filing requirements. In some communities, you must first file an administrative or agency complaint before filing a lawsuit. Different filing and notice deadlines may also apply. If you need help with the claims process, contact your community’s anti-discrimination agency or an experienced attorney. Make sure you discuss your claim in detail—include descriptions of all of your employer’s discriminatory behavior.
The remedies for most discrimination claims are generally the same. If you can prove your employer discriminated against you, you may be entitled to:
- Economic damages (compensation for your wage loss and other expenses),
- Make-whole relief (such a job reinstatement), and
- Compensatory, punitive or liquidated damages (additional compensation if your employer’s behavior was intentional and egregious).
Economic damages are typically capped at what you lost due to the discrimination. (Even if you have multiple discrimination claims, you cannot receive additional payments of economic damages.) However, evidence of multiple factor discrimination may increase the value of your compensatory and punitive damages.
Do Multiple Factors Complicate a Discrimination Claim?
Your various discrimination claims may also require different evidence and legal analysis. Discrimination laws sometimes have different requirements and definitions. For example:
- Individuals who are perceived to be disabled are protected by the ADA (even if they are not). In other claims, it is sometimes unclear if perceived members of a class are protected.
- Claims based on religious or disability-related discrimination may require a “reasonable accommodation” analysis. This analysis does not apply in gender, racial, age, or national identity claims.
Each of your discrimination claims must be evaluated separately.
Additionally, an employer may have different defenses depending on the basis of its discrimination. For example:
- An employer may argue that accommodation of a religious practice or disability would be unduly burdensome. This undue burden defense is not available in claims involving race, age, or gender, or national origin.
- In other claims, an employer may argue that gender, national origin or religious affiliation is a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ). However, race is almost never a BFOQ.
Make sure you understand the legal requirements and defenses related to all of your discrimination claims. Depending on the facts of your case, one claim may be stronger than another.
What if an Adverse Employment Action is Made for Both Legal and Illegal Reasons?
An adverse employment action is sometimes made for both legal and illegal reasons. For example, a female employee may be terminated both for absenteeism and due to gender bias. Lawyers refer to this as a “mixed motive” discrimination case.
Under the Civil Rights Act, you may file a discrimination lawsuit when there is a mixed motive. However, your damages may be limited. (Typically, you will not receive compensation for lost wages or job reinstatement.) You cannot file a mixed motive claim under federal age discrimination laws.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
Pursuing an employment discrimination claim against an employer is complicated because laws vary depending on where and when you file your claim. An employment lawyer can help you evaluate and correctly file all of your claims. It is also a good idea to see a lawyer before signing a waiver or other severance package.
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Last Modified: 09-29-2016 10:39 AM PDT
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