Employment Discrimination

It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee on the basis of race, sex (including gender, pregnancy and sexual harassment), religion, national origin, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation and age. It is also illegal for an employer to retaliate against any employee who complains of being the subject of discrimination.

Discrimination means to treat one person differently than another person, and such discrimination is illegal if an employer treats an employee differently from other employees in the areas described above.

Generally, the discrimination must take a relatively serious form, such as failing to hire, demoting, suspending or firing an employee on at least one of the bases described above. In addition, to hold the employer responsible the employee must show that a managing supervisor of the employee was the person acting in a discriminatory manner, or, if the person acting in a discriminatory manner was a co-worker, that the employer knew or should have known of the conduct, unless the employer took immediate and appropriate corrective action upon learning of the conduct. This is an important exception to the normal "employment at-will" doctrine which generally lets an employer fire an employee for whatever reason the employer wants. For instance, an employer CAN fire a woman employee who wears a red dress because the employer does not like the color of the dress-the employer CANNOT, however, fire an employee because they are a woman. It is usually not illegal discrimination if the employer is mean or picks on the employee, unless the employer takes such actions because of the employee’s race, religion, etc.

Often the major problem facing the discriminating employer is that it cannot retaliate against an employee who claims they have been the subject of illegal discrimination. Employers are often tempted to make life difficult for such complaining employees, such as changing hours or schedules, cutting wages, subjecting the employee to intensive scrutiny of their job performance, claiming job performance has deteriorated, or discharging the employee. Any such adverse actions occurring within six months or so after the employee made claims of illegal discrimination put the employer in a very tough position to convince a jury that the adverse actions were due to real employment difficulties as opposed to being in retaliation for the employee's discrimination claims.

An employee who proves in court that they have been the victim of illegal discrimination by the employer may recover lost wages, lost future pay, for emotional pain and suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, the loss of enjoyment of life and other non-economic damages, punitive damages, attorneys' fees, expert witness fees and court costs. We normally structure our attorney fee agreements with our clients so that we get the greater of the amount the court awards us in attorneys' s fees after prevailing at trial, or a specified percentage of the overall award (the amount the employee gets plus the amount of attorneys' fees awarded).