According to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers cannot discriminate against workers based on several factors, including race, gender, religion, and national origin.
If you face discrimination in the workplace, it might seem like you have a clear case of your employer violating Title VII. However, it can be difficult to prove discrimination at work, especially if you work in an at-will environment, which means both you and your employer can terminate an employment relationship at any time, for any legal reason.
You might have a gut feeling that your employer discriminated against you, but you need to gather persuasive evidence to motivate your employer to take action that prevents future acts of discrimination in the workplace.
What is Required to Prove Discrimination at Work?
You have three types of evidence to use when proving workplace discrimination. The most convincing type of evidence is called direct evidence, which represents physical evidence that includes memos, emails, text messages, photographs, and video images.
For example, your supervisors might have sent you an email in which you received a denial notice for a promotion. The email is just one piece of evidence that might indicate discrimination in the workplace.
You also have to retrieve the document that approved a promotion for a less qualified candidate. Witness accounts of discrimination at work support physical evidence, not replace it.
In most cases, a manager is not going to explain to a worker why the worker did not receive a promotion. This means for most discrimination cases, workers must rely on circumstantial evidence.
Circumstantial evidence is based on you demonstrating to a civil court and/or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that you belong to a protected class of workers as defined by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
After you demonstrate you belong to a protected class, you must show you are professionally qualified to receive a promotion and your employer committed a harmful act that negatively impacted your employment status.
The third type of evidence is describing a pattern and practice in the workplace that defines discrimination. When an employer willingly encourages discrimination in the workplace, the illegal acts adversely impact more than one worker. The key is to get every worker negatively impacted by workplace discrimination to bring charges of discrimination against an employer as a group.
Why is It Hard to Prove Discrimination?
The first reason why it is difficult to prove discrimination involves failing to submit convincing direct evidence. You must collect and organize compelling evidence that demonstrates your employer has violated Title VII.
Both the EEOC and the judge hearing a discrimination case want to process plenty of information that proves the existence of workplace discrimination. Another factor that makes it difficult to prove discrimination in the workplace is the legal concept called at-will employment.
Your employer might invoke the at-will employment doctrine as justification for terminating you. Unless you can demonstrate your employer committed one or more acts of discrimination in the workplace, referring to the at-will employment doctrine can help your employer validate your termination.
Schedule a Free Case Evaluation Today
Because workplace discrimination is difficult to prove, you should contact an employment attorney immediately after experiencing the first act of discrimination in the workplace.
Working with an employment lawyer can help you gather and organize the evidence you need to submit a persuasive complaint to the EEOC and file a compelling civil lawsuit that seeks monetary damages.
Schedule a free case evaluation today to determine the best course of legal action.