Proving Employment Discrimination– A Guide

 Proving Employment Discrimination– A Guide

Working in a discrimination-free environment is a legal and fundamental right of all employees in the U.S.  Proving discrimination at the workplace is difficult because it’s not easy to obtain evidence. If you’re a victim of employment discrimination in California, do not hesitate to contact top employment law firms in California.

There are several ways abused employees can bring a claim against abusers, who could be other employees or even the employer. However, you can contact top employment law firms in California for fast results. The law firms have skilled attorneys who will evaluate your case and advise you accordingly.

Employment Discrimination Explained

In most states, employees can be fired at any time and for any reason. Such an arrangement is called at-will employment. However, there are laws (federal and statutory) that limit the employment-at-will doctrine and hence, prohibit employment discrimination. In other words, the limitations of the at-will employment doctrine ensure employees belonging to a protected class are not mistreated.

The law (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964) prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on an employee’s race, sex, gender, religious affiliation, national origin, and others. Disabled workers are protected by America’s Disabilities Act while anti-discrimination of old employees (over 40 years) is addressed by the Employment Act.

An employee can succeed on an employment discrimination claim by proving that their employer discriminated or had the intention to discriminate against them. In employment discrimination cases, the intent of the employer or the abuser is usually the main point of focus. Wronged employees can prove their claims in three ways, including circumstantial evidence, direct evidence, and pattern & practice.

Circumstantial Evidence

Circumstantial evidence proves a claim by inference as opposed to proving a fact directly. This is how direct evidence and circumstantial evidence work: The coming in through your window would be considered circumstantial evidence while watching the sun through the window would directly prove that the sun is shining.

Since employees mostly use circumstantial evidence to prove discrimination cases, American courts developed a way of analyzing circumstantial evidence using the McDonnell Douglas framework. The model requires employees to present evidence to prove the following facts:

·         That the worker is a member of a protected class;

·         The worker is qualified for their role;

·         The employee experienced an adverse employment action, such as contract termination, and they were replaced by a worker who does not belong to the same protected class as the fired employee.

Once the above facts are established by the aggrieved employee, the employer is required to prove that there was sufficient reason for their actions. If the employer proves that their actions were justified, the burden of proving that the employer’s actions were malicious and had a discriminatory motive reverts to the employee.


Suppose a qualified black employee is fired, and their job is given to a white employee, the McDonnell Douglas framework can be used to prove discrimination. If the employer proves that the worker was fired because of indiscipline, the accused employee must prove that their employer’s claim is intended to cover the discrimination claim.

Direct Evidence

Direct evidence proves discrimination claims without presumptions (inference). This type of evidence can be in form of statements, written documents, or emails. Unfortunately, this type of evidence is not easy to come by when proving discrimination cases. An employer is not likely to send you a contract termination email to an employee stating that they’re being fired because of their gender or some other protected aspect of employment–this would be direct evidence of discrimination at the workplace.

Pattern and Practice

Pattern and practice evidence is mainly used in class actions to prove employment discrimination.

Remedies for Employment Discrimination

Employment laws provide a remedy for employment discrimination. The goal is to restore victims of discrimination to the position they would have been if the discrimination hadn’t occurred. However, the remedy will depend on the level of seriousness of the discriminatory action and the effect such actions had on the victim.

For instance, if a qualified job seeker is discriminated against, the remedy can be giving the job to the candidate or giving back pay and other benefits the employee would have received.

The employer also will be required to stop any discriminatory practices and take steps to prevent discrimination in the future. Additionally, the victim of discrimination can recover legal fees, expert witness fees, and litigation (court) costs.

Another remedy can be compensatory and punitive damages, particularly where the case involves intentional discrimination based on an employee’s race, gender, sex, genetic information, or other protected features of employment.

Compensatory damages cater for the out-of-pocket expenses resulting from the discrimination such as costs of looking for a new job, medical expenses, and emotional harm. On the other hand, punitive damages are meant to punish the employer for committing malicious discrimination.

The law prohibits all forms of discrimination in the workplace. That said, you should seek legal redress if you’ve suffered workplace discrimination.


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