The federal law that governs discrimination is called Title VII. It is part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This law controls discrimination or harassment based on race, color, religion, national origin and sex.
This was the 60's, freedom marches, civil rights movement, non-violent protests, segregation, (some of you may remember those days). This law was intended to protect the equality rights of minorities.
By the way, "sex" got into this law because a contingent of southern representatives desperately wanted to kill this law. They knew, given the mood of the country, they couldn't argue down equal rights for different races, so, at the last minute, they inserted "sex" into the Act, because they were ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that a law creating equal rights for WOMEN would NEVER PASS!
The key here is, a Complainant must prove that the adverse employment action occurred BECAUSE of his/her race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. It is not enough that the person experienced a negative action, and s/he was a member of one or more of those groups.
To prove discrimination under Title VII, you must demonstrate the following four elements:
NOTE: (If you are dark-skinned black, and the job goes to a light-skinned black, you can not claim race discrimination, but you may have a claim based on color. Look closely at those protected classes).
A discrimination case is a little like a tennis game. The Employee serves (you discriminated against me).
The Employer then returns the ball (We did not discriminate. We admit that you suffered an adverse employment action, but we took that action for a perfectly legal, non-discriminatory reason).
The Employee must then return the ball one more time. (No. The reason you have given is just a pretense (or "pretext" under the law). The real reason is discrimination, AND I CAN PROVE IT!).
Both employees and employers must remember that sometimes there are perfectly legitimate reasons not to hire someone, not to promote someone, not to give someone a raise, or to fire someone. Just because a person is a member of a protected class does not mean that these things can never happen. The adverse action must be taken BECAUSE of the membership in the protected class.
STATISTICS: Statistics can sometimes prove discrimination where the employee otherwise has no direct evidence (that is, no "smoking memo" from the President saying, "don't promote those people;" no witnesses who saw the supervisor use a racial epithet).
For example, if a department is downsized, the employer will probably have some very reasonable sounding explanation for why each individual person was terminated. But, if you look at the Big Picture, through statistics, you may find that all of the terminated employees are over 40, or all of the terminated employees are African-American. The suspicion of discrimination suddenly becomes a reality.
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