Workplace discrimination is an unfortunate reality across the United States. Every year, thousands of people in California and every other state experience various forms of workplace discrimination. Unfortunately, most of them are unaware of the legal protections to address discrimination when it occurs. Worse still, many people who experience workplace discrimination do not know how to prove when these incidents happen, as the physical evidence that might be used to substantiate a claim of workplace discrimination may be difficult to identify.

If you’re wondering if it is hard to prove discrimination at work, the answer is, unfortunately, yes; many people who experience illegal, discriminatory treatment in their workplaces struggle to secure the proof they need to hold responsible parties accountable. However, an experienced California workplace discrimination attorney can provide employees with the legal guidance they need to obtain unambiguous evidence of discrimination and ensure accountability from those responsible.

Generally, three main types of evidence are likely to come into play in any workplace discrimination dispute: direct evidence, circumstantial evidence, and evidence of pattern and practice when an employer has engaged in consistent discriminatory behavior against multiple applicants or employees.

Direct Evidence

When most employers engage in intentional discrimination, they typically know well enough to leave as little evidence as possible that might reveal their true intentions behind their behavior. However, it is possible for an employee who has experienced workplace discrimination to prove the extent of their experiences through direct evidence. The direct evidence that’s likely to come into play in a workplace discrimination claim includes email correspondence between the affected employee and those responsible for the discrimination they faced, audio recordings, and any other physical evidence that proves an employer, supervisor, or manager engaged in discrimination against an employee.

Circumstantial Evidence

The most commonly reported evidence in workplace discrimination claims is circumstantial evidence. Simply put, this type of evidence is not as solid as direct evidence but instead relies on inference to prove that discrimination has occurred. For example, looking outside and seeing puddles on the ground would be strong circumstantial evidence that it is raining, but physically looking up and observing rain droplets falling from the sky is direct evidence that it is raining.

Most workplace discrimination claims revolve around hiring and firing. For example, if a job applicant can prove they are a member of a protected class and were denied work due to their protected class, they would need to prove the employer hired someone else who is not of their protected class to establish circumstantial evidence of discrimination. Similarly, suppose an employee is a member of a protected class, and their employer fires them and replaces them with someone who is not a member of their protected class. In that case, this could also function as circumstantial evidence of workplace discrimination.

If an employer is confronted with an accusation of discrimination based on circumstantial evidence, they must prove there was another reason for the decision in question. Their response, in turn, can require the claimant to gather additional evidence. For example, the employer may respond by stating they fired the claimant for poor job performance. The claimant would then need to gather evidence of past work performance to disprove this or provide other evidence that shows the employer’s response is nothing more than a pretext for discrimination.

Pattern and Practice

When an employer knowingly engages in workplace discrimination, their behavior will likely affect more than one person. Evidence that shows a “pattern and practice” of discriminatory behavior can potentially help a group of affected employees prove they experienced unlawful discrimination from the same employer. This typically means gathering direct and circumstantial evidence from multiple affected parties. With enough clear evidence from affected employees, proving a pattern and practice of discrimination is much easier for the claimants.

Disproving an Employer’s Counterclaim

When faced with a workplace discrimination dispute, any employer is likely to cultivate every conceivable excuse to disprove the claim and avoid liability. However, when your employer has responded to a claim of discrimination, there are several potential ways to counter their statements:

  • You could provide evidence, direct or circumstantial, that proves their stated reasons for their behavior are factually untrue.
  • Suppose your employer stated an alternative reason for firing you or engaging in the adverse treatment you experienced. In that case, you could provide proof that their stated reason was insufficient for reasonably motivating the employer to terminate you.
  • You could prove that the employer’s stated reason is simply inaccurate and could not have formed a reasonable justification for your firing.
  • You may need to prove that your protected status was more likely to be the primary motivating force behind your employer’s actions than their stated reason.
  • Strong enough direct or circumstantial evidence may be enough to disprove your employer’s stated reason.
  • Some cases may require proving disparate impact, meaning that a seemingly neutral practice or rule had some discriminatory effect upon you precisely due to your protected class.

Ultimately, every discrimination case will involve unique elements, and the process of proving workplace discrimination is not always straightforward. Therefore, if you are unsure whether you have grounds for a discrimination claim, a wrongful termination lawsuit, or if you aren’t sure whether your employer has engaged in unlawful discrimination, it’s vital to consult an experienced employment law attorney as soon as possible to determine your best possible approach to this kind of difficult situation.

An experienced workplace discrimination attorney can help you gather direct and circumstantial evidence that can help you prove you experienced discrimination due to your protected class. Additionally, suppose others have experienced similar treatment from your employer. In that case, whether they belong to your same protected class or a different one, your attorney may wish to consult with them and their legal counsel to help you prove a pattern and practice of discrimination from the employer.

California Employment Counsel, APC, can provide the responsive and compassionate legal counsel you need after experiencing workplace discrimination of any kind. If you are ready to take legal action against an employer who has engaged in unlawful discrimination against you, contact us today to learn how our firm can assist you.