Discrimination in the workplace not only threatens our rights, but also menaces the institutions and foundations of a free democratic state. Federal and state law prohibit employers from discriminating against their workers under many circumstances. For a worker to establish a claim for employment discrimination, he or she must prove several things.
First, there must have been what’s called an “adverse employment action.” An adverse employment action is any action that materially affects a worker’s compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment. Some examples include discharge, denial of promotion, refusal to hire, denial of job benefits, demotion and suspension.
If there is an adverse employment action, the next step is to determine its cause. If the employer’s decision was caused, at least in part, by the worker’s race, color, national origin, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, pregnancy, disability, age or honorably discharged veteran or military status, then the employer may be liable for employment discrimination. These are what lawyers call “protected classes” or “protected traits.”
Many times, an employer will not tell a worker that the employer’s decision was motivated by the worker’s protected class. In fact, many times an employer will give the worker a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for their decision. If this reason is false, lawyers call it a “pretext” or a “pretextual reason.”
When there is no direct evidence of discrimination (for example, an employer telling a worker they are fired because they are pregnant), lawyers must weave together circumstantial evidence to prove the employer’s real motives. This circumstantial evidence can take many different forms. Finding and arranging this circumstantial evidence into a compelling story for the jury is one of the most important reasons a victim of discrimination should contact an experienced lawyer.
This is a broad overview of employment discrimination. There are other requirements and many nuances in this area of law. There are very strict deadlines for taking action. If you feel you are the victim of employment discrimination, do not delay.
Call Adam R. Pechtel today at (509) 586-3091.