In 1964, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was signed into law. This act prohibited workplace discrimination based on sex, race and religion. Since then, new acts have been created to also prohibit workplace discrimination based on age, disabilities, pregnancy and union activity. If you feel you were discriminated against by an employer because of one or more of these factors, you may be able to bring a lawsuit against the employer for violating your civil rights. However, you likely have many questions. Getting answers to these questions will help you to understand if you have a case and what to expect from the process. Here are a few frequently asked questions about discrimination in the workplace.
What Must Be Proven In Order to File a Discrimination Claim?
If you are considering filing a discrimination lawsuit against your employer, you must be able to prove two things. First, you must fall into one of the federally-protected classes. For example, you can't file a discrimination lawsuit because you have tattoos or pink hair. Tattoos and hair color are not federally-protected classes. Secondly, you have to be able to show that you were discriminated against. If you were fired or turned down for a promotion, you may have a gut feeling it was due to your race or religion. But proving it can be another matter.
In order to prove that you were discriminated against, you have to have either direct evidence or circumstantial evidence. Direct evidence involves a termination specifically stating you are being fired because you are pregnant or because the company disagrees with your religious views. It may also be statements from other supervisors or employees who heard management make statements about firing or not promoting certain races or ages, or who discredit the reasons you were fired. The other way you can prove your case is with circumstantial evidence. Circumstantial evidence is a bit harder to prove, but can still be telling. For example, envision this. You are disabled with great job reviews and are qualified for a promotion. But the company passes you up for a promotion repeatedly in favor of people who are less qualified and have questionable reviews, yet they aren't disabled. In this instance, it may be easy to make the leap to the fact that you aren't receiving the promotion because of your disabilities, especially if there are others in the company with disabilities that are also being passed over.
How Do You File a Discrimination Case Against an Employer?
Before you are able to file a discrimination case against your employer, you must first file a charge of discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. After filing the complaint, the EEOC will investigate the claim. If they find that the employer didn't violate the law, or there isn't enough evidence to prove so, they will provide you with a notice of right to sue, meaning you can file your lawsuit and let a judge or jury decide. If the EEOC decides that there is evidence that the employer violated your rights, they will attempt to reach a settlement on your behalf. If you and/or your employer can't agree on a settlement, the EEOC can either file a case on your behalf or provide you with a notice of right to sue, allowing you to file the case on your own.
Should You Wait Until EEOC Completes Their Investigation to Hire a Discrimination Attorney?
If you feel you have been discriminated against, you may look to hire a discrimination attorney to help with your case. However, since you must first file a complaint with the EEOC, you may be considering waiting until after they complete their investigation to hire the attorney. Hiring an attorney before this process can be beneficial. An attorney can help preserve evidence, such as witness statements, that can help with the EEOC investigation. An attorney can also file the EEOC complaint on your behalf. Lastly, an attorney can advise you as to whether the settlement offer the EEOC may present you is fair, or whether you may get more if you go to trial.
If you feel you have been discriminated against because of your age, race, gender, religion or other protected class, you may be able to file a discrimination lawsuit against your employer. Learning what must be proven in order to file a claim, the first steps to filing a claim and when you should hire an attorney will help you to better understand the process. If you feel you have been discriminated against, consult with a discrimination attorney from a firm like the Law Office of Faye Riva Cohen, P.C. as soon as possible to find out if you have a case and how to proceed.