Multiple factor employment discrimination is when an employer discriminates against an individual based on more than one characteristic. Because individuals have multiple aspects that make up their identity, it is possible that they may experience discrimination on the basis of more than one characteristic.

For example, an employee can be discriminated against on the basis of both their race and gender. It is illegal to discriminate against someone on basis of protected classes such as:

  • Age;
  • Race;
  • Gender;
  • Nationality;
  • Religion;
  • Disability;
  • Sexual Orientation; and/or
  • Genetic predisposition.

There are different laws against employment discrimination at the federal, state and local level. Many of the laws deal with one particular type of discrimination such as disability or age discrimination. If you were discriminated against because of multiple factors, then different laws may apply to you and your claim may be more likely to succeed in a court.

What are Some of the Laws Against Employment Discrimination?

At the federal level, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the laws which make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee on the basis of a particular category. Some of the anti-discrimination laws enforced by the EEOC include:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act: Under this law, it is illegal to discriminate against someone on basis of race, color, religion, national origin or sex.
    • Under this law, it is illegal to retaliate against an employee who has complained about workplace discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.
    • It was also amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act which makes it illegal to discriminate against a woman because of pregnancy, childbirth or because of a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth.
  • The Equal Pay Act: Under this law, it is illegal to pay different wages to men and women if they perform equal work in the same workplace. This law also makes it illegal to retaliate against any employee because they complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.
  • Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Under this law, it is illegal to discriminate against a qualified individual with a disability in the private sector and in state and local governments.
    • Under this law, employers are required to reasonably accommodate the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability who is an applicant or employee, unless doing so would cause undue hardship on the operation of the employer’s business.
    • This law also makes it illegal to retaliate against someone who has complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.
  • Sections 102 and 103 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991: This law amended both Title VII and the ADA and it permitted jury trials as well as compensatory and punitive damage awards in intentional discrimination cases.
  • The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act: Under this law, it is illegal to discriminate against employees or applicants because of genetic information.
    • This includes information about an individual’s genetic tests, the genetic tests of family members as well as information regarding any disease, disorder or the individual’s family medical history.
    • Under this law, it is also illegal to retaliate against someone because they complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

What are Mixed Motives?

Just as discrimination can be based on multiple factors, so also decisions regarding particular employees can be based on multiple motives. Sometimes, an employer may have both legitimate and discriminatory reasons for taking a particular decision.

For an example, an employee can be fired both because they did not perform many of their tasks well and also because they belonged to a particular nationality. When something like this happens, the concept of mixed motives applies.

In these cases, the plaintiff has to provide direct or circumstantial evidence that is sufficiently strong which may lead a jury to find that the decision by the employer was motivated at least in part by discrimination.

Under the “mixed motive” instruction, a jury is required to find in favor of the plaintiff if the jury determines that discrimination was a motivator in how the employee was treated. This is true even if the jury also finds that the employer was also motivated by legitimate considerations.

Should I Contact a Lawyer for Help with Multiple Factor Employment Discrimination?

Employment laws can be complex and they can also vary depending on the jurisdiction. In this context, if you feel that you were discriminated against by your employer, it is important to consult with an experienced employment law attorney before proceeding.

Your attorney can provide you with the proper legal advice, research, and representation to guide you during the legal process.