How To Prove Workplace Discrimination

Written by J. Hirby and Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

Workplace discrimination can occur on a variety of levels including gender, race, religious, age or other types of prejudice. While the Civil Rights Act protects against workplace discrimination, it is often very difficult to prove that discrimination occurred. There are certain details and documents that should be provided if you plan to file a workplace discrimination lawsuit. The purpose of this documentation is to prove discriminatory intent on the part of the business owner.

Types of Evidence - Circumstantial vs. Direct

Ideally, you want to have direct evidence rather than circumstantial evidence when filing a discrimination claim. Direct evidence is any written or witnessed verbal statement to the effect that your protected status had a direct impact on an employer's decisions about details related to your job position such as your pay, responsibilities or dismissal. If you can acquire this direct evidence, you will have a solid workplace discrimination case.

However, many companies will not provide you with this sort of direct evidence that you are being discriminated against. This is when you have to use circumstantial evidence, which is not as effective in a court of law. Circumstantial evidence includes but is not limited to:

  • Observations of different treatment between yourself and other employees with the same level of qualification for the job who differ in protected class status
  • Rude or derogatory comments made by superiors about your protected status such as racist or sexist remarks
  • A history of prior discriminatory practices or complaints against the company
  • A relative lack of employees with your protected status in your workplace
  • Jobs being given to people with fewer qualifications but a different class status, eg. a managerial position given to a Caucasian person with one year of experience rather than to a Black person with five years of experience when both were candidates for the job.

A lawyer will be able to use several of these incidences of circumstantial evidence to build a case for workplace discrimination, but this is a situation where the more evidence that exists, the more likely you will be to prove your case before a judge. A lawyer will also be able to assist you in countering employers' denials by proving them to be either factually untrue or otherwise insufficient rationale for their behavior. In many cases, it will be your story against your employer's, and you will need as much evidence of circumstantial or direct instances of workplace discrimination to prove your case.

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