Discrimination |
January 05, 2017

How to Prove Employment Discrimination and File a Lawsuit

San Francisco employment discrimination lawyers at Minnis & Smallets can help those subjected to discrimination seek justice in court

Employment discrimination means treating an employee or job applicant unfavorably based on the employee’s protected characteristic, such as race, sex, sexual orientation, nationality, disability, age, religion, or gender identity. Proof of a discriminatory motive is essential to most employment discrimination claims. The San Francisco employment discrimination lawyers at Minnis & Smallets conduct a thorough investigation to identify evidence of discrimination before deciding how to present a claim to a court or administrative agency.

Bringing a Discrimination Claim

san francisco employment discrimination lawyerA discrimination claim generally must be brought before a federal or state agency before it can be asserted in a lawsuit filed in a federal or state court. The discrimination subject is required to file the claim with an administrative agency before he or she can file the discrimination lawsuit in court, and only after the agency either has completed its investigation or has issued what is known as a “right to sue.”

If an employee does not have an attorney, then it may be advantageous to let the agency investigate and pursue the claim. An employee may also want to allow the agency to conduct an investigation into the employee’s allegations.

Otherwise, if the employee is represented by an attorney, then filing a lawsuit in court has substantial benefits, including the ability to have the fact of discrimination and damages determined by a jury. Whether it is better to pursue a claim with an agency or in court, and the process of obtaining a right to sue, are issues that an experienced San Francisco employment discrimination lawyer can help the employee to navigate.

Direct Proof of Discrimination

While unfavorable treatment is unlawful if it is motivated by discrimination, an employer’s motive is not always easy to prove. Most employers or managers will not make statements that constitute direct evidence of a discriminatory motive or bias.

In some discrimination cases, however, employees can present direct proof that their employers acted with a discriminatory intent. The employer’s own words sometimes reveal their thinking. When a business owner says “My customers would be uncomfortable with a gay salesperson” or “Women don’t know how to sell guns,” the discriminatory motive for denying an available position to an employee or job applicant is clear. Likewise, when an employer terminates an employee for a performance issue caused by the employee’s disability, the employer is essentially terminating the employee because of the disability.

Employers might not make discriminatory statements directly to the discrimination subject, but employers will sometimes reveal their discriminatory intent to others. When witnesses are available to testify about the employer’s discriminatory comments, then the witness’s statements can be powerful evidence of discrimination.

Indirect Proof of Discrimination

In most cases, however, discrimination is provided circumstantially or indirectly. For example, an employment discrimination attorney in San Francisco may obtain evidence that the employee was treated less favorably than employees who do not belong to the same protected class. Likewise, the employer’s stated reason or explanation for the termination or other adverse action may be proved to be false.

Judges and juries are entitled to regard an employer’s untruthful explanation for the employee’s termination as evidence supporting discrimination. After all, why would the employer lie unless the employer is trying to conceal the truth? And if the truth must be concealed, a reasonable inference may be that the true reason is discrimination.

To understand how indirect proof works, let’s assume that a business has five account managers. The three male managers are all promoted to executive positions and given a substantial raise. The two female managers are passed over for promotion, even though they have just as much (or more) seniority as the males and perform just as well according to objective measures of performance.

The different treatment of the sales managers may permit an inference that the employer was motivated to treat the males more favorably because of gender. To overcome that inference, the employer must offer a nondiscriminatory explanation for the disparate treatment of the male and female employees.

Suppose the employer asserts that the males were promoted to reward their superior job performance. The female employees are then entitled to point to evidence that their sales figures and other performance indicators equaled or exceeded those of the male employees who were promoted. By proving that the employer’s explanation is untrue, the discrimination subjects can argue that the explanations were a pretext to mask a discriminatory motive.

Help with Employment Discrimination Claims

Proving discrimination is often difficult. Employers rely on a number of defenses in employment discrimination cases.

Having a skilled and experienced lawyer is the best way for employment discrimination subjects to achieve justice. The San Francisco employment discrimination lawyers at Minnis & Smallets pride themselves on their ability to build a strong case when the evidence suggests an employment decision was motivated by discrimination. To review the facts in your case with an employment discrimination attorney, call us at 1-415-551-0885 or submit our online contact form.