Workplace discrimination occurs when one person is treated differently from others who perform similar tasks based on certain characteristics they possess. Federal and state laws base discrimination claims on the person’s membership in a “protected class”. For instance, discrimination might involve treating a person differently based on their:
- Race or nationality
- Religious or political affiliation
- Sex or gender
- Medical condition, especially pregnancy
It must also be shown that the employer or agent intended to discriminate against the person in question. That is, the employer must have consciously made a choice to choose the person differently from other similar workers solely based on their membership in the category.
What Are Some Common Forms of Workplace Discrimination?
Workplace discrimination can take many forms. Within all the different categories listed above, workplace discrimination can involve factors such as:
- Not hiring someone solely based on their race, age, sex, etc.
- Granting one group benefits while the other group is not granted them, although the groups do the same type of work
- Withholding salary or wages
- Forcing someone to work under harsh or unreasonable conditions
- Disputes regarding hours, especially overtime and vacation pay
- Various violations regarding termination, retirement, and severance
Remedies for discrimination can include a damages award or other consequences, such as being restored to a previous work position. Employees may need to file first with an agency such as the EEOC.
What Is “Pretext” in a Workplace Discrimination Case?
When proving discrimination, the employee is usually claiming that they were not hired or were fired, etc. due to their membership in the protected class. On the other hand, the employer will be trying to prove that their actions were motivated by a legitimate purpose. This purpose is known as the “pretext”.
Examples of pretext include: that the employee was not qualified for the job; the company requirements had changed; better applicants, etc. Thus, in an employment discrimination lawsuit, proof of the employer’s actual intentions is very important.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
As you can see, workplace discrimination can involve a wide array of different factors and issues. You may wish to hire an employment lawyer if you need help filing a claim for discrimination. Your attorney can help determine what your rights and whether or not you might have a viable claim. Also, if you need to file with the EEOC, or if you need to file with the courts, your lawyer can guide you through the process.