“Federal laws...make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.” EEOC.gov.
The groups of people protected by federal employment discrimination law is constantly changing and is more complicated than the paragraph above indicates. If you personally are white, for example, but are being discriminated against because you have an African-American spouse, then you are protected from being discriminated against based on your spouse's race and your own. Each class has complexities within it that may or may not permit you to bring a claim. If you have any reason to believe discrimination may be occurring to you at work, you should contact our team of discrimination lawyers to discuss your situation to ensure that you are leaving no stone unturned.
What Happened to You?
One initial hurdle employees must pass in order to have an actionable discrimination claim is to determine whether the employee suffered a “prohibited personnel action.”
“Title VII, the ADEA, and the ADA prohibit discrimination related to job decisions, employment practices, or other terms, conditions, or privileges of employment based on an individual’s protected status or, in some circumstances, an individual’s relationship to a protected individual. In addition, the EPA prohibits compensation discrimination based on sex.” EEOC.gov.
The EEOC goes on to give us some common personnel actions that are covered under the law: termination, failure to hire, promotion denial, an undesirable reassignment, denial of leave, denial of compensation, denial of benefits, denial of training, or unfair work assignments. There is substantial case law that dives into the question of whether a certain action taken by the employer constitutes a “prohibited personnel action.”
If the action taken against you does not fall into these categories, you may still be protected if the law interprets what has happened to you as harassment. Our discrimination lawyers can discuss this with you further.
Is It Discriminatory?
The court expects you to establish that your "protected class" - i.e., your race, gender, national origin, etc., is somehow related to your prohibited personnel action. You can do this through either "circumstantial evidence" or "comparator evidence." Circumstantial evidence includes a great deal of different things that, to create a general definition, don't pass the "smell test." For example, if your manager has made comments about members of your race, has made off-color jokes that are derogatory toward your religion, or only invites men to after-work parties, then you have what is called circumstantial evidence of discrimination. Comparator evidence, by contrast, is evidence that your manager is punishing a group of people more harshly than other employees for the same thing. For example, if your manager writes up Indian employees for being late to work but gives everyone else he manages a pass, then you have comparator evidence of discrimination.
If you believe your situation may fall into any of the scenarios above or something similar, please contact our discrimination lawyers to discuss it today.