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How do I Prove Employment Discrimination?

Leigia Rosales
Updated May 17, 2024
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The precise definition of employment discrimination may vary from one jurisdiction to the other. In most cases, employment discrimination may be present in the application or promotion process. It may also be a reason for an employee's termination or the reason an employee does not receive comparable compensation. In order to prove employment discrimination within the United States and in many other jurisdictions, the employee must first show that he or she is a member of a protected class and then that the employer actually acted, or failed to act, on the basis of discriminatory motives.

Proving an employment discrimination case can be very difficult because it is often hard to prove that the employer's motivation was discriminatory in nature. An individual has a much harder time proving discrimination than when a group of employees choose to file a lawsuit. A group stands a better chance, as there is often a pattern of discrimination that can be followed.

In most jurisdictions there are specific traits or groups of people that are considered protected classes. These are typically groups that have historically faced discrimination in one form or the other. Examples of protected classes include race, ethnicity, sex, age, disability or sexual preference. As a rule, the first consideration when analyzing a possible employment discrimination case is whether the employee belongs to one or more of the protected classes. If the employee is a member of a protected class, then he or she will need to gather evidence showing that discrimination was at play.

Much of the time, the evidence needed to prove an employment discrimination case is in the hands of the employer. For example, if the alleged discrimination was in the hiring process, then all applications submitted for the position in question need to be reviewed to see if a less-qualified candidate was hired, which may show discrimination. The same concept applies to promotions and job assignments. Records relating to compensation and terminations are also in the hands of the employer. In most jurisdictions, there is a legal process which allows the plaintiff to require the defendant to provide copies of records such as these.

Discovery is the process by which one party to a lawsuit is allowed to ask pretrial questions of the other party or request copies of relevant documents. An employment discrimination case is an excellent example of why the discovery process is so crucial to civil litigation. A plaintiff, in many cases, would be unable to substantiate his or her claim without evidence that is in the hands of the defendant.

In a discrimination case, the employee may be able to obtain copies of records showing that the employer consistently hired or promoted less-qualified employees based on discriminatory criteria. The records may also be able to show that employees from protected classes were systematically overlooked for promotions or raises, or were terminated without cause. Evidence of this nature is required in order to prove an employment discrimination case.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Leigia Rosales
By Leigia Rosales , Former Writer
Leigia Rosales is a former attorney turned freelance writer. With a law degree and a background in legal practice, she crafts compelling content that informs and engages readers. Her ability to understand complex topics and communicate them effectively makes her a valuable asset to any content creation team.

Discussion Comments

By fBoyle — On Nov 08, 2014

I think that proving discrimination is more difficult than it needs to be. People are not dumb. Employers know about anti-discrimination laws. Even when they do discriminate, they will find another excuse to fire the person or reduce their benefits. So if they are taken to court, they can just say that they didn't discriminate and had a valid reason.

I realize that if discrimination was easy to prove, then people might take advantage of it and claim that they were discriminated against when they weren't. But right now, the opposite is true. Employers take advantage of the fact that discrimination is difficult to prove, to continue to discriminate.

By stoneMason — On Nov 08, 2014

@burcinc-- I think that showing a pattern is very important. Do you know if others at the workplace were discriminated against in a similar fashion? Or can you show that there is a pattern among those who were fired and their race, gender, religion, disability, etc.?

If you can show that there is a pattern, that the organization discriminates against the same groups over and over again, proving and winning the case will be much easier.

If there is no pattern and if you can't show that you are a victim of discrimination, it won't work. Sometimes, it is possible that people weren't discriminated against but thought that they were. So motive on the part of the employers is important.

By burcinc — On Nov 07, 2014

I'm in this situation right now. I know I was discriminated against, but I can't prove it. I spoke to a lawyer and he said that we need concrete proof and things like emails that show the discrimination. I don't have those so I can't do anything. It's very frustrating.

Leigia Rosales

Leigia Rosales

Former Writer

Leigia Rosales is a former attorney turned freelance writer. With a law degree and a background in legal practice, she...
Learn more
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