If you are experiencing discrimination based on your gender at your work, you may have the right to file a lawsuit. Under federal law, gender discrimination is prohibited in workplaces of employers who employ at least 15 people. State laws vary, but may provide even more protection, and some city laws also provide significant protection. Before you file your gender discrimination lawsuit, consult with an experienced attorney and take the time to gather evidence for your case and learn what is needed for a successful outcome.
Intentional vs. Prima Facie: What Case Type Do You Have?
In a gender discrimination lawsuit the burden is on you, the plaintiff, to prove that you’ve been a victim. Courts recognize two different types of approaches in sex discrimination cases: intentional, or direct, discrimination and prima facie, or indirect, discrimination.
For intentional discrimination, you have to prove your employer discriminated against you based on your gender some kind credible, specific evidence. For instance, if your employer failed to give you a promotion and sent you a written statement that admitted you were passed over because you are a woman, you have direct evidence of intentional discrimination.
Since intentional discrimination is often hard to prove because of a lack of evidence, you can pursue a prima facie case using indirect proof to show that you were discriminated against. Once you’ve built a successful prima facie case, the burden shifts to your employer, and it must prove it had a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for their actions.
The required evidence to build a case will vary depending upon your state’s laws and your case’s specifics, but you generally must demonstrate that the following is true:
- You are in a “protected class,” that is, you have a characteristic that federal law prohibits discrimination against, such as gender.
- You are or were performing your job duties in a consistently satisfactory manner.
- You have suffered an adverse employment action, such as losing out on a promotion for which you were the most qualified person.
- You were replaced by another person whose qualifications mirrored yours, i.e., the person did not bring additional experience or qualifications to your job. Usually such a person would not have the protected class characteristic you have.
Documentation Is Key
Documenting anything and everything you can, including what happens to you on a daily basis at work and what actions you have taken, is necessary for your intentional or prima facie discrimination case. Keep a written diary of events that includes dates, times and the names of all people involved. Don’t forget to note the names of any witnesses, even if they weren’t directly involved, and any contact information you can for them (phone number, address, birth date and middle name are helpful types of information).
Use your employer’s formal procedure for reporting a gender discrimination case before going to court, as any negative action taken against you after that will be suspect and a potential part of your case. This also prevents the employer from claiming it did not know about the discrimination problem. Make sure you file your complaint with the employer in writing and can prove you did so. It’s a very good idea to consult with an experienced attorney before making this complaint to make sure all your rights are protected. Make copies of everything related to your employer’s complaint process so you can show the court you followed the correct procedures. If your employer doesn’t have a formal complaint system, you’ll submit your complaint to your Human Resources department.
If you are not satisfied with your employer’s response, it may be time to file a formal complaint with the EEOC, your local state or city employment discrimination agency, and to take legal action. Consult with experienced legal professionals to take your discrimination case to court and get the resolution you deserve.