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Making a work discrimination case takes more than ‘gut feeling’

Discrimination is an easy thing to define. According to the dictionary, it is “the practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or groups of people.” What tends to be harder is knowing when discrimination actually is taking place.

As a worker in California, you may have a gut feeling that something you’ve experienced on the job amounts to unfair treatment. But your perception of things isn’t enough to support a claim that illegal discrimination has actually occurred. For that you need proof.

As a matter of law, there are generally two types of evidence that may be used in the effort to prove any claim. There is direct evidence and circumstantial evidence. It should come as no surprise that direct evidence is the type that the courts and juries prefer. If the claims of case can be shown to be true by solid evidence, they become very hard for the other side to refute.

Direct evidence might be easy to assemble in something like a personal injury or criminal case. But it can be difficult to pull together in a discrimination case. That’s because organizations and the managers who run them have come to know what actions or statements to avoid to prevent triggering a claim.

That tends to mean that discrimination cases depend more on the collection of circumstantial evidence — actions or statements that indicate a presumption of discrimination.

Many legal observers would likely agree that a case for pressing a discrimination claim may exist if the answer to the following four questions is yes. This is known as the McDonnell Douglas test.

  1. Can you show that you belong to a class protected by anti-discrimination law?
  2. Can you show that you were qualified for a job you applied for?
  3. Can you show you didn’t get the job despite being qualified?
  4. Can you show someone from outside the protected class replaced you?

Of course, having a possible case does not assure that a case can be won. To get a solid assessment of your case’s potential you should commit to contacting an attorney with deep experience in employment discrimination law.


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