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Understanding Laws Related to Workplace Discrimination Part 4

Just like a jobsite needs to have practices in place to ensure everyone remains safe, construction businesses need to have policies in place to ensure that their workplaces remain discrimination-free. As our Clearwater contractor lawyers have discussed throughout this series, including in parts one, two, and three, it’s critical that employers understand what constitutes discrimination, who at their workplace is protected, and how complaints of discrimination are typically reported by employees and applicants. 

Just like how an injury can occur at an otherwise safe jobsite, an employee can still file a lawsuit or complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against an employer that has done everything in their power to prevent workplace discrimination. As we will discuss in this part, an employee or applicant that reports discrimination must prove that they were in fact discriminated against.  

What’s a Prima Facie Case Under Title VII?

Latin for “on its face,” a “prima facie” case is one where the evidence presented is enough to support the allegations. In other words, Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), a prima facie case of discirmination should have enough supporting evidence that a judge or jury can infer that discrimination occurred. It’s the employee’s responsibility to meet this burden of proof. After this burden of proof has been met, an employer has an opportunity to respond to the allegations and present the non-discriminatory motive they had for their employment decision. Of course, the plaintiff can challenge the employer’s evidence further, and so on and so forth. 

What Are the Elements of a Prima Facie Case Under Title VII?

Under Title VII, there are four elements an employee must meet to establish a prima facie case of discrimination. The four elements of a prima facie case are:

  1. The employee is a member of a protected class: as we discussed previously, this means that the employee must prove they were discriminated against based on their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability. 
  2. The employee was qualified for their position: an applicant must prove that they meet the requirements of the position and were a qualified applicant; whereas, an employee must show that their job performance was meeting their employer’s expectations.
  3. The employee was subjected to an adverse employment action: although the definition of “adverse employment action” can vary depending on the law of the circuit, an adverse employment action is generally considered: failure to hire or promote, termination of employment, demotion, suspension, reduced pay or benefits, reassignment of job tasks or position, or denial of training opportunities.   
  4. The employer gave preferential treatment to a similarly situated person outside the plaintiff’s protected class: in other words, an employee or applicant must prove that another individual in a similar position that is outside of their protected group received better treatment from the employer.  

To learn more about laws related to workplace discrimination, please read parts five and six.       

If you would like to speak with our Clearwater construction lawyers, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.