What Is Employment Discrimination?
What Is Employment Discrimination?
Employment discrimination occurs when an employee was discriminated against by an employer in regards to major work-related decisions such as hiring, firing, promotions, or the availability of benefits. In order to prove that an employer engaged in discrimination, it is necessary to prove that:
- The employee or candidate is a member of a “protected class”
- The employee or candidate was fully qualified for the job description
- The person was denied a promotion, demoted, or fired due to their membership in the protected class
- They suffered damages from the discrimination (such as emotional suffering or lost wages)
Here, “protected class” refers to the worker’s age, race, sex, country of origin, disability, or creed/religion. In other words, an employer cannot discriminate against a worker solely due to their age, race, sex, etc. Also, proving discrimination requires evidence of the employer’s intention or motive to discriminate (i.e. unintentional violations don’t count).
What Is Direct Versus Indirect Evidence in a Discrimination Claim?
When proving employment discrimination, both direct and indirect evidence can be used. Direct evidence usually consists of witness testimony or admission by the defendant of the use of:
- Racial slurs
- Disparaging remarks or inappropriate jokes
- Statements indicating bias (such as “women shouldn’t operate heavy machinery”)
Indirect evidence consists of information that is not necessarily discrimination in itself, but which may suggest the existence of discrimination. This can include:
- Statistics (for example, certain races are always hired in exclusion of other races)
- Different or preferential treatment towards people who have less qualification than those belong to the protected class being discriminated against
- Similar cases of discrimination
- Fake or false reasons being given in order to cover up the discriminatory decision-making
What Are the Legal Consequences for Employment Discrimination?
The legal remedies for employment discrimination may include:
- Payment of a damages award to reimburse the plaintiff for their losses
- Reinstatement of the worker to the job if they were wrongfully terminated
- Removal of the employer from their position, or replacing them with another person to handle the managerial decisions
- Changes in company policies
Of course, these will depend on each individual case, as the courts will usually prescribe legal remedies according to what’s appropriate for the situation.
Is Employment Discrimination the Same as Other Types of Discrimination?
Employment discrimination is based on similar principles as in other forms of discrimination such as housing discrimination. For example, the idea of protected classes is a main factor in all discrimination cases. However, there are some legal issues that are more emphasized in employment discrimination claims.
In particular, the issue of employer retaliation is a factor that may not be present in other types of discrimination. That is, it is illegal for an employer to fire a worker in retaliation if they have filed a discrimination claim. Also, employment discrimination claims often involve or overlap with other legal issues, like wrongful termination or harassment in the workplace.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
Recovering damages for employment discrimination usually begins by filing a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC will process an investigation and may prescribe an appropriate remedy for the aggrieved worker. If the EEOC remedy is not sufficient, it may be necessary to file a lawsuit in civil court. Generally speaking, the assistance of an experienced employment lawyer is needed for both avenues of relief.
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Last Modified: 04-02-2014 11:51 AM PDT
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