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Prima Facie Case of Discrimination

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What Does "Prima Facie" mean?

“Prima facie” is Latin for “on its face” or “at first look”. It refers to the manner in which a claim is proven in a court of law. Prima facie basically means that there is enough evidence before the trial to prove the case, unless contradictory evidence is presented at trial. 

What Is a “Prima Facie Case of Discrimination”?

In an employment setting, a prima facie case of discrimination is where the plaintiff has sufficient evidence to prove that their employer discriminated against them. Unless the employer is able to present evidence to the contrary, the employee victim will likely prevail. 

In order to establish a prima facie case of employment discrimination, courts will generally require proof that:

  • The plaintiff was a member of a “protected group”
  • The plaintiff was qualified in all respects for the job they sought
  • The plaintiff was rejected in spite of being fully qualified
  • After the rejection, the employer continued seeking for applicants with the plaintiff’s qualifications

Are There Different Types of Prima Facie Discrimination?

Discrimination may be based on a number of categories. It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against a worker or future employee on the basis of their age, race, sex, national origin, etc. Thus, a prima facie case of discrimination may be based on any of these categories, which may require slightly different elements of proof for each category.

For example, when proving a prima facie case of age discrimination, it is typically required that the affected employee was over a certain age (usually 40 or 50 years old), and that a younger person was hired in their place despite qualifications. Or, in a prima facie case of race discrimination, it may be necessary to prove that the plaintiff was a member of a certain race, and that an employee of a different race was hired instead.

Thus, each the elements of proof for each category of prima facie discrimination are based on the general elements of proof listed above, subject to specific modifications. Also, there should be some proof that the employer was motivated by a desire to discriminate against the plaintiff. It is not enough to simply prove that the person was a member of certain class.  

What Are the Remedies for a Prima Facie case of Discrimination?

There are many different remedies available in a prima facie case of discrimination. For example, the employee who had been discriminated against may be able to recover damages for their losses. These can include back pay for lost wages, reinstatement to a previous job title, and recovery of benefits such as vacation or retirement plans.

In addition, a judge may order the employer to take further measures which serve to prevent discrimination in the future. These remedies may involve changing the policies contained in employee handbooks, or instituting means for reporting employer misconduct.

Do I need a Lawyer for a Prima Facie case of Discrimination?

If you feel that you have a discrimination claim, an employment lawyer can help determine if you have a prima facie case. If the evidence is strongly in your favor you may be able to obtain a prima facie ruling as well as the corresponding legal remedies. Your attorney can help you prepare the necessary documents that will be used in your claim, such as pay stubs, witness accounts, and any employment contracts. 

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 04-10-2018 07:45 PM PDT

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