An employer looks at many things when they are considering whether to hire an individual. They can view your past work experiences, and your education, they can speak with your past employers or former instructors, or they can ask you to submit to a writing test. In other words, there are a lot of factors that go into whether or not you get hired. However, there are some things that an employer cannot use to influence their decision to hire you, such as your race, religion, sex or national origin.
Who is protected by anti-discrimination laws?
Various laws exist on the federal level and state level that prevent discrimination of employees by their employers. Most employers who discriminate on the basis of an employee’s sex (including pregnancy), race, religion or national origin will be in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Even if an employer does not fall under the jurisdiction of this act, they would likely be in violation of a different statute, such as a state level law. Additional protections based on the United States Constitution apply to governmental employees.
Other statutes exist that create protections for employees from unfair age discrimination, status as a veteran, or based on a disability. And many states have laws against discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.
What constitutes discrimination?
Of course, refusing to hire an individual because of their race or sex would be unlawful discrimination. But even once an individual is employed, he or she could potentially experience discrimination in a number of ways that would also be in violation of employment discrimination laws. For instance, an employer might refuse to promote someone based on discrimination, or they might not give that person a raise, give them unwarranted negative reviews, or otherwise treat them unfairly based on their religion, race, or membership another protected class.
I know I was discriminated against, but how do I prove it?
Many people feel that they have been treated unfairly, and were likely discriminated against, but it is only based on an overall impression. While they might be right, they will need to be able to show something more convincing in order to make a valid discrimination case. This means, they need evidence.
The best evidence would be direct evidence that the employer violated a discrimination law. This would include statements made by your employer that indicate that you are being fired, or overlooked for a promotion as a direct result of your membership in a protected class. For instance, if your boss said that he would like to promote you, but that your male colleagues would have a big problem working under a woman, this statement would be pretty good evidence of discrimination based on your sex.
However, people are often too savvy to let something like this slip in a conversation. The law realizes this, and therefore circumstantial evidence may be used in the absence of direct evidence. The minimum you would have to show in order to have a chance at a discrimination case would be that you are a member of a protected class, that you were qualified to hold your position, that your employer took adverse actions against you, and that you were replaced by someone who was not a member of your protected class.
While showing all of these factors might give you your day in court, you will have to show other evidence in order to expect a favorable outcome for your case. This would include things like statistics indicating members of your class are less likely to be promoted within the company, that the person who was promoted ahead of you was a less qualified person who was not a member of your protected class, that you were subject to comments that were derogatory based on your protected class, or other relevant evidence.
Yes, your employer would likely give other reasons for his or her actions, but the court will look at all of the evidence in order to determine if discrimination occurred. If the court finds in your favor, you may be able to recover back pay, as well as lost future earnings, lost benefits, damages for emotional distress, punitive damages, as well as attorney and legal fees.
If you have reason to believe you suffered from employment discrimination, you should seek legal counsel in order to pursue a claim against the offending employer.
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At Stern Law, PLLC, we have compassionate and caring attorneys ready to work with you to find the best solution to your employment law related legal issues. Contact Stern Law, PLLC today at (844) 808-7529 for a free consolation with an experienced employment attorney.