Discrimination in the workplace is an illegal practice with damaging results. Not only can it create toxic work conditions, but it can prevent individuals from achieving their long-term career goals. Your chances of winning a discrimination case will depend on how you proceed.
The Harvard Law and Policy Review published an article in 2009 which found that employees only win discrimination cases against their employers 15% of the time. Luckily, public awareness of the need for consequences increases your odds of finding justice. Our New York City employment discrimination lawyers can help you increase your chances of winning a discrimination case.
How to Win a Workplace Discrimination Lawsuit
If you have been the victim of employment discrimination, you have the law on your side. You may be eligible to file a workplace discrimination lawsuit. However, you must follow the proper procedures.
Talk to the Offender
A lawsuit must be used as a last resort to correct the situation. Before you initiate a workplace discrimination lawsuit, you must first discuss your concerns with the offender. Any reasonable person will understand your grievances and make corrections.
Do not record your conversation, but do make note of it. Write down the date and time of the conversation, as well as the issues you discussed. If this discussion does not bring an end to the discrimination you experience, move on to the next step.
Make a Formal Complaint
If your attempt to resolve the issue on your own was unsuccessful, escalate it. File a formal complaint with your employer. Many companies have zero-tolerance policies regarding discrimination and will take action.
Be sure to keep a copy of your formal complaint. If your company fails to monitor future behavior or no corrections are made, you may need to take further action.
File an Administrative Charge
Before you can move forward with your discrimination lawsuit, you must file an administrative charge. These agencies cooperate with each other but you can also cross-file to file your claim with multiple agencies. You can file a charge through:
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
- New York Division of Human Rights (DHR)
- New York City Commission on Human Rights (CHR)
The agency you choose to file with will investigate your claim, and they may speak with your employer. If you haven’t taken the above steps in an attempt to correct the situation on your own, the agency may ask you to do so now.
If the agency agrees that your case should move forward with a lawsuit, they may file a lawsuit for you. However, it is more common that they issue you a right to sue letter. This is your green light to begin your discrimination lawsuit. Your New York City employment discrimination lawyer will guide you through the process.
You Must Provide Evidence that You Experienced Discrimination
According to Workplace Fairness, if your employer denies terminating you for discriminatory reasons, you must prove their stated reason is false and that you were discriminated against, resulting in your termination. To win a discrimination case, you must be able to prove:
Membership in a Protected Class
Membership in a protected class is usually easy to prove. You must be able to prove you are part of a protected class that could be discriminated against.
You must be able to prove there was adverse action taken against you due to your protected class. Depending on your case, your lawyer can advise you on what evidence can prove adverse action.
Discriminatory animus must be proven. You must be able to show that the action was taken because of ill feelings toward your protected class.
You must be able to prove that there was a negative effect on you due to the discrimination. Discrimination does not have to be the sole cause of your unjust treatment, but it must be a contributing factor.
Why Are Discrimination Claims Difficult to Prove?
There are a couple of reasons why discrimination claims may be difficult to prove. Unfortunately, few plaintiffs know about these legal tactics until they are used in their discrimination cases.
Motions for Summary Judgment
This motion allows employers to ask the judge to make a decision on a case without a trial. They do this to say that no trial is necessary because they would clearly win. Your employment discrimination lawyer in New York City can help you appeal if your case is dismissed.
McDonnell Douglas Test
Your discrimination case may need to pass the McDonnell Douglas test to decide motions for summary judgment. This test applies to federal district cases. It has three parts:
- Employee presents prima facie case for discrimination
- Employer proves nondiscriminatory reasons behind actions
- Employee presents additional evidence that actions were discriminatory
Because the burden of proof will fall on the plaintiff twice during the McDonnell Douglas test, it’s important to document everything. Your lawyer can help you gather evidence of discrimination and your attempts to correct it on your own. Your case can be dismissed quickly, so you must be sufficiently prepared before you file your lawsuit.
Mistakes that Can Lower Your Chances of Winning Your Case
In addition to navigating the litigation process, your employment discrimination attorney in New York City will keep you from making mistakes that can hurt your chances of winning your case. The biggest mistake you can make is giving inconsistent statements.
The value of your case may weigh heavily on emotional distress or reduced job opportunities caused by discrimination. You must keep your statements consistent across:
- Email or text communications
- Social media posts
- Job applications
Unfortunately, workplace discrimination may lead you to seek employment elsewhere. Prospective employers may ask about your mental health, and these statements may be subpoenaed and used in your lawsuit. Your New York City employment discrimination attorney will advise you on how to handle statements that may create inconsistencies in your case.
The New York City Human Rights Law Helps Protected Classes
Not all New York employees are legally protected from discrimination. New York City Human Rights Law protects employees from being discriminated against based on:
- Citizenship status
- Gender and gender identity
- Marital status
- Sexual orientation
- Military status
- Conviction record or arrest
- Credit history
- Pre-employment marijuana testing
- Salary history
- Status as a victim of domestic violence, stalking, and sex offenses
- Unemployment status
Different Types of Discrimination May Occur in the Workplace
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), to discriminate against someone is to treat them less favorably or differently for some reason. Some laws protect employees from discrimination. There are different types of workplace discrimination, such as:
Unfair treatment can include any treatment you receive based on your protected class that negatively impacts your work life.
Harassment in the workplace due to your race, ethnicity, color, sex, disability, age, or any other protected class is considered discrimination.
Denial of Workplace Change
Your workplace should make reasonable changes to the workplace to accommodate your religious beliefs. Not doing so may be considered discrimination.
Your employer cannot ask you questions about your genetics or your medical information.
If you complain about discrimination in the workplace, you are protected against retaliation, such as termination.
If you feel you experienced any of the above forms of discrimination, you might be able to receive compensation for the damages you faced.
Is It Worth Filing a Discrimination Lawsuit?
Ultimately, that is up to you. Discrimination lawsuits rarely bring substantial amounts of compensation. The EEOC says that out-of-court settlements for discrimination average around $40,000. Only a tiny percentage of cases get a payout of over a million dollars.
However, your discrimination lawsuit can bring accountability to the company and, potentially, get a harmful abuser out of your former workplace. The public can learn what the employer has done and decide whether to continue supporting that company.
Also, a successful discrimination lawsuit can force a culture change at your employer. A judge can force workplace policies and practices to be altered to prevent similar discrimination in the future.
You Might Be Able to Receive Compensation If You Experienced Discrimination
If you were discriminated against in the workplace, you might be eligible for financial compensation. You may be able to receive damages for:
Back pay is the pay you lost from the time of discrimination to the time your claim is settled. For example, if you were terminated due to your race, you may receive compensation to cover the time of your termination to the time the court decides in your favor. This may also include the pay you would have received if you were still employed.
Front pay is the pay that you could potentially lose out on due to your discrimination. The end date of your front pay depends on how long it is likely to take you to find future employment. While it is difficult to determine the exact time you will be employed, expert testimony can be brought in to give a statement as to how long it is usually.
If you were terminated due to discrimination, you might be able to receive compensation for the benefits you lost. This may include:
- Medical insurance
- Retirement benefits
- Paid time off
You may be eligible for any other benefits that were taken from you due to termination. A lawyer can help you determine an estimated dollar amount that you lost out on due to a loss of benefits.
You may be able to get compensation for any legal fees you acquired due to the discrimination brought against you.
Being discriminated against in the workplace can be an emotional experience. Being terminated is also an extremely stressful experience. Not knowing how you are going to pay your bills or feed your family can weigh on you. While it is difficult to put a dollar amount on this stress, it should be considered when determining how much you can sue for discrimination.
If your employer acted with malice and disregarded your rights, the court may decide to award punitive damages. This is an amount of money granted to you by the court above and beyond your actual damages. It is a punishment against your employer for their actions.
Must I Take My Discrimination Lawsuit to Trial?
Not necessarily, and you may not be able to if you’re bound by private arbitration laws. An employment discrimination attorney can look over the strength of your case and advise you on whether a settlement is in your best interest.
The choice to go to trial is always yours, but you must be aware of the time and expense of trials along with the risks. If your goal is only compensation and a clean cut from your old employer, it may not be worth it.
On the other hand, if your employer’s conduct is egregious and goes beyond your personal case, a trial can expose this to the public and force the company to change its ways so more people avoid discrimination.
Factors in the Value of Your Discrimination Case
Your discrimination lawyer can help you decide whether a settlement offer is good enough to make you whole again. There are many factors taken into consideration. Here are a few of them:
- How likely you’ll win a trial and the strength of your proof
- The calculated amount of your damages
- Past employee rights violations by your employer
- Whether you have to go to private arbitration or not
- The value of your employer’s insurance policies for discrimination claims
- How long you’re willing to wait to get a settlement or a judgment
Again, the choice to accept a settlement or go to trial is always yours. Our role is to advise you on the pros and cons of each choice and give our informed opinion on the best way to proceed.
How a Lawyer from Morelli Law Firm Can Help
Workplace discrimination happens more often than it should. It should not go unnoticed or unaccounted for. A lawyer can help you file a discrimination claim and determine the type of evidence you need to build your case.
Contact Morelli Law Firm today to see what options are available to you. Workplace discrimination should not be taken lightly. Call us for a free consultation with our team of employment discrimination lawyers in New York City.