How to Prove Discrimination in the Workplace

How to Prove Discrimination in the Workplace

Employment discrimination takes many forms, and all of them are illegal. From being treated differently for sexual orientation to racial discrimination and unfairness based on religion or national origin, the law protects employees against wrongful termination and discrimination in the workplace. Fortunately, anti-discrimination law makes it illegal to discriminate, protecting you from discrimination and harassment based on race, color, religion, sex, age, or personal characteristic such as a disability.

You may feel like you have been mistreated at your workplace for some time. And to fight back against hostile work environments, you have been thinking of filing a discrimination complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

If this is true for you, this article will provide relevant information about the conditions of employment discrimination and the complaint process of proving your claim of discrimination as an employee or applicant. It will offer you invaluable advice on how to prepare evidence and win the discrimination case before the EEOC.

First of all, you need to know that filing a discrimination complaint has to be based on firm evidence of discrimination based on your age, gender, sex, disability, race, or religion. For example, it will not be sufficient to appear before the commission and state that you have suffered disparity treatment because you are an elderly gay man. You have to prove that discrimination occurred. While we know that many unfair, insulting, and diminishing things happen at the workplace daily, most of these maltreatments do not qualify as unlawful work discrimination. Bear in mind that unfair employment decisions may be based on false assumptions and can still be legal. Likewise, many wrongful decisions stemming from poor management may be harmful but not unlawful. Therefore you need to understand that the information you present as evidence for your discrimination claim has to meet some standards before the commission concludes there has been a case of workplace discrimination.

What Different Discrimination Claims You Can File?

There are three different complaints related to workplace discrimination and the employment law you can file depending on the type of discrimination you have suffered.

  • Discriminatory Treatment – In this case, your supervisor or manager treated you unequally compared to others because of your age, gender, race, religion, sex, disability, and so on.
  • Disparate impact – In this case, it is not the employer’s discriminatory intent that puts you in an adverse situation. It is the company’s policy. Disparate impact happens when an allegedly neutral working policy has a negative impact on some protected class members.
  •  Workplace Retaliation – You can file a retaliation claim if your manager or supervisor tries to punish you for engaging in legal processes to protect your rights or the company’s interests. This discriminatory behavior may include demotion, salary reduction, firing, and so on.

Evidence You Can Submit to Prove Workplace Discrimination

There are two types of evidence you can submit to prove you have been a victim of employment discrimination. Direct evidence includes a statement or a testimony of a person who has witnessed that your employer treated you unequally. Direct evidence is the most reliable, but at the same time, most difficult to obtain because managers and supervisors will not use blatant statements to explain their discriminatory decisions.

For example, your manager will not tell you that you have been fired because you are too old to fit the new, youthful image they want to promote. They will think of some other non-discriminatory reason for their unfair decision instead. This is why most employees filing a discriminatory complaint need to rely on circumstantial evidence to prove their case.

Circumstantial evidence of discrimination may come in the form of documents or statistic data that clearly shows your manager has discriminated against you in favor of some other employee. For this reason, you have to gather a substantial amount of relevant documents like the company’s policies and procedures, letters, notes, or recordings you can use to reinforce your case.

Before you start building your case on circumstantial evidence, you have to make a prima facia case of discrimination. This means you have to prove to the court or the EEOC that you are a member of a protected class. You will do this by answering four essential questions:

  1. Are you a member of a protected class? For example, if you are discriminated against because of age, are you older than forty? Similarly, if you are claiming pregnancy discrimination, were you pregnant at the time the discriminatory act occurred?
  1. Were you qualified for your position? It is crucial to prove that you were equally qualified for the position as the person that you were discriminated against. If this is not the case, management may use this to claim that their decision was based on non-discriminatory reasons.
  1. Did your manager take any harmful actions towards you during any aspect of employment? This includes hiring, promotion, compensation, firing.
  1. Have you been replaced by another employee that is also a member of a protected class? If your replacement does not fall in any of the groups susceptible to workplace discrimination, this may go in favor of your case.

Once you have answered these questions, you have made an eligible presumption of discrimination before the court. This means that you may have been mistreated due to your age, sex, gender, race, religion, or disability and not for other non-discriminatory reasons.

Once that you have made a presumption of discrimination, you have to make sure that your circumstantial evidence is reliable enough to support your workplace discrimination case. The most efficient way to do this is to answer the following questions:

  • Has your employer treated you differently than a similarly situated coworker that does not fall into a protected class?
  • Does your employer frequently make rude jokes or negative comments about your protected class status or addressed at the entire vulnerable group?
  • Does your employer have a history of taking discriminatory actions or making harassing comments directed to other members of your protected class?
  • Are you one of the few protected class workers in your company?
  • Has your manager shown any hostility or unfair treatment towards other workers who also have a protected class status in the company, and have you witnessed this?
  • Are there statistics that can reinforce your claims of discriminatory actions taken against certain vulnerable groups of employees over time? Or any numbers showing favoritism?
  • Has your manager violated the company’s policy by taking discriminatory actions against you?
  • Has your manager decided to choose an under-qualified employee for a specific position instead of you?

If you affirmatively answered most of these questions, you need to compile a sufficient number of documents and statistics to sustain your answers. Then, you may be able to prove that you have been discriminated against at work because of your protected class status.

There are different types of compensation you can expect if the court rules in your favor. Here are some of the financial remedies:

Back Pay – You will get earnings lost due to discrimination from the time the discriminatory incident took place to the time of court’s ruling.

Future Pay – This implies money lost because of discrimination.

Lost Benefits – These may include health and dental insurance coverage, pension, stock, or profit-sharing.

Emotional Distress Damages – This is financial compensation for all pain and suffering caused by employment discrimination.

Attorney Fees  – This is additional compensation you can get by winning your discrimination. This not only covers what you paid your employment attorney but also may include court costs and expert witness fees.

Final Words

There are many legislative acts that protect workers from discrimination, starting from the Civil Rights Act’s title vii that prohibits any maltreatment based on race, religion, color, sex, or a number of specified anti-discrimination acts. However, workplace discrimination is still widespread, and it is a demanding task to prove discrimination claims before the EEOC or the court.

For this reason, you should rely on the help of legal professionals specialized in employment discrimination cases. Discrimination lawyers at Cilenti&Cooper law firm will help you gather firm evidence to prove your discrimination case. Furthermore, they will help you go through complex legal procedures to get the justice you deserve.



Let us fight to recover the wages you have earned.

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