Do I Need an Attorney for Discrimination?

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 What Constitutes Discrimination?

In general, discrimination refers to the prejudicial or unjust treatment of different categories of individuals or things, especially on the basis of:

  • Race;
  • Age; or
  • Sex.

What Is Housing Discrimination?

A landlord is permitted to deny housing on the basis of a legitimate business reason, which may include:

  • Credit history;
  • Income;
  • References from past landlords; and
  • Past behaviors, for example, damaging property.

Housing discrimination occurs when an individual is denied housing because of their membership to a protected class and not for a legitimate business reason.

Individuals are protected based on their membership in this following classes:

  • Race;
  • National origin;
  • Color;
  • Religion;
  • Sex;
  • Age;
  • Disability, whether physical or mental; and
  • Pregnancy.

There are federal and state laws that make it illegal for a landlord to deny an individual housing based only on one or more of the characteristics listed above. Biased treatment against an individual is unlawful during housing related activities, including:

  • Renting;
  • Buying; and
  • Lending.

In addition, a landlord is prohibited from selecting a tenant based on their marital status or their familiar status, such as having children.

Do I Have a Basis for a Housing Discrimination Claim?

There are many states that have protections codified in their state legislative codes that outlaw housing discrimination. For example, in California, it is illegal for a landlord to discriminate against an individual on the basis of their:

  • Race;
  • National origin;
  • Religion;
  • Sex; or
  • Disability.

If an individual has been denied housing and believes it was based on an illegal reason, they should consult with an attorney.

What Is Considered Employment Discrimination?

Employment discrimination arises when an employee, or a potential employee, is treated less favorably than a similar employee, based only on certain characteristics. These characteristics or backgrounds are those listed above that are protected by law, and may include their age, religion, disability, or other categories.

Employment discrimination may also arise when one group of employees is treated more favorably than another group of employees, based on their membership in a protected class or category, which is defined by various laws. One example of this is when a group of workers clearly receives benefits which are denied to other workers on the basis of their sex.

Employment discrimination often occurs after an individual is already hired. It is important to note, however, that it may also occur when an individual is seeking employment.

For example, if an applicant is not hired because they belong to a certain religion.

Do I Have a Basis for Employment Discrimination?

It is common for the laws in many states to prohibit discrimination in issues realted to employment because discrimination in employment, as in housing, violates public policy. Anti-discrimination labor laws are typically more extensive at the state level than they are at the federal level.

For example, in Michigan, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee based on their weight.

What Are Examples of Workplace Discrimination?

Workplace discrimination most commonly occurs when a potential employee is not hired solely on the basis of their age, race, or other protected status. One other common example is when a current employee is denied benefits or a promotion because of their membership in a protected class.

Many claims of wrongful termination either involve, or are closely related to, discrimination claims. It is common for individuals to be fired based on their age, gender, or other classification, which makes their termination illegal under discrimination laws.

How Do I File an Employment Discrimination Claim?

In many cases, an employee will be required to file a discrimination claim with a government agency before being able to file a lawsuit for employment discrimination. This is typically accomplished by filing a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The EEOC conducts investigations discrimination claims will prescribe an appropriate remedy. In the event that the remedy prescribed is not sufficient or satisfactory, the individual may be able to file a private lawsuit.

However, the claimant will typically be required to go through the EEOC and exhaust any other available remedies first.

What Is Governmental Discrimination?

Governmental Discrimination is like any other type of discrimination that would occur in the private sector, for example, discrimination based on:

  • Race;
  • Religion;
  • Age;
  • Sexual orientation; or
  • Disability.

Governmental discrimination is discrimination that is committed by the government or in a government setting towards a federal or government employee. If an individual works directly for the state or federal government or one of its agencies, they are considered to be a government employee.

This means that any legal dispute which arises for these employees related to discrimination will be handled differently than if they were in the private sector.

Do I Have a Basis for Governmental Agency-Related Discrimination?

A government is limited by the United States Constitution as well as The Code of Federal Regulations from passing a law or enacting a regulation that has a disparate impact or disparately treat members of one group differently from non-members.

Disparate impact may arise if employees are required to take a placement test to qualify for a promotion in a government position which allows one group of applicants to do well on their tests and be promoted and the other group performs poorly and would not be promoted.

Disparate treatment arises if there is a regulation that specifically requires members of one group to suffer certain negative treatment while allowing non-members to be free from that negative treatment.

What Remedies are Available for Government Discrimination?

If an individual is successful in a government discrimination claim, they may be entitled to damages, such as compensatory damages or punitive damages. Compensatory damages are awarded to a plaintiff for the loss of future wages, emotional distress, and pain and suffering.

Punitive damages may be awarded but are restricted to cases in which an employer discriminated with malice or reckless indifference to the individual’s rights. Both categories of damages have a cap, or limit, and are dependent on the size of the agency.

The remedy that is most frequently awarded in these types of cases is back pay. Back pay is a combination of the salary, wages, and benefits that an individual would have earned during the period between the date of the incident, such as the non-promotion or termination, and the date of trial.

Other common remedies awarded for government discrimination may include:

  • Attorney’s fees;
  • Court costs;
  • The cost of expert witnesses; and
  • Although rare, injunctive relief to reinstatement to the employee’s former position.

What Are Some Legal Obstacles that May Prevent a Claim?

The main challenges that an individual faces when seeking to obtain compensation for a government discrimination claim is that their case may be outside the jurisdiction of the federal court. In addition, the federal court may determine that the case cannot be heard due to the fact that it is moot, or is no longer a justiciable issue.

There are also other reasons that may prevent an individual’s case from being decided by a federal court.

Should I Contact an Attorney?

If you believe you have been a victim of discrimination, whether related to employment, housing, or government employment, it is essential to have the assistance of a discrimination lawyer. If you are required to exhaust all available administrative remedies before filing a lawsuit, your lawyer can walk you through the process.

If those remedies are not adequate for your issue, your lawyer can help you file a lawsuit. Your lawyer can also advise you of all of the different categories of laws that may apply to your case and what remedies may be available to you.

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