Discrimination at workplace occurs when you are being treated differently or worse in a significant manner because you are a member of protected class, i.e. you have been demoted, denied promotion, or fired due to your race, disability, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, familial status, and a number of other specific protected categories. California anti-discrimination laws generally apply to all employers that employ five or more employees. Being fired for a discriminatory reason may be one basis for a discrimination and wrongful termination case that can be brought in court.
The first important thing to remember about making a discrimination claim is that your goal as a plaintiff is to prove that the reason you were fired was discriminatory and not some other, unrelated reason, whether fair or unfair.
The employer will of course never admit that the reason you were fired was due to discrimination. Therefore, indirect evidence (also known as circumstantial evidence) is most often used to show that the reason or at least one significant reason that an employee was terminated was discriminatory and therefore illegal. This kind of evidence may include the timing of events, statements to the victim of his co-workers that in one way or the other show a manager’s animosity toward a specific protected class, history of similar claims by other employees against the same supervisor, and other details of your employment and your termination.
An experienced employment attorney should be able to carefully analyze your facts and documents and advice you how strong your discrimination / wrongful termination case is and whether it’s worth pursuing. No discrimination case is a slam dunk, and there are always facts that make it stronger and other facts, that make it more challenging.
If you believe you have a legitimate discrimination case against your employer, you should gather all the relevant documents you have that may support your case, including your personnel file documents, medical notes if applicable (disability discrimination and FMLA violation cases), e-mails, witnesses contact information, etc. Often, one e-mail, one witness statement or one note can make a difference between not having a case or having a weak cases v having a really strong case, so it’s really worth going through the documents and determining what evidence you can find to support your case.
You should also make a list of those facts that you know your employer will use to defend against your case, including any negative performance reviews, complaints by customers or co-workers, warnings or suspensions, etc. Knowing what to expect from the other side after you file a discrimination lawsuit will help you and your attorney a lot in proving your case and defeating the employer’s defenses.
And if you consider complaining about discrimination / harassment, make sure that you complain correctly by avoiding these five mistakes when writing and submitting your complaint to your HR department or management.