How to Prove Discrimination in the Workplace

Mar 28, 2018
By Peter Friedmann

Proving that you have experienced discrimination in the workplace requires you to show all of the following:

  • You belong to a group, or “class,” of people that federal or state laws protect from discrimination;
  • Your employer mistreated you based on the characteristics that make you a member of a protected class; and
  • The mistreatment resulted in an adverse employment action.

As Columbus, Ohio-based lawyers for discrimination victims, we understand that many victims of workplace discrimination will have questions about each item on this list. While we provide brief explanations of the three components of a workplace discrimination case below, we welcome more in-depth questions.

If you are experiencing discrimination as an employee or job applicant, or even if you witness others being discriminated against, give The Friedmann Firm a call at 614.610.9755. We offer free, confidential consultation on all aspects of employee rights and employment law, and we also schedule appointments online through this content form.


Who Is Protected From Workplace Discrimination?

No one can be discriminated against at work or while applying for a job because of his or her

  • Race or skin color,
  • National origin or ethnicity,
  • Religion,
  • Sex or gender,
  • Sexual orientation,
  • Age (above 40),
  • Disability,
  • Pregnancy,
  • Military service, or
  • Genetic information.


What Counts as Evidence of Discrimination?

Discriminatory behavior can take many form, ranging from insults and offensive jokes to pressure to conform to certain majority practices such as prayers during lunch. Sex-based discrimination can include displaying pornographic images, while age discrimination can show up in job postings that specify “recent graduates” or “youthful energy.” Refusing to make reasonable accommodations for disabled job applicants and employees can also constitute discrimination.

If you are experiencing discrimination, document all instances of mistreatment. Take notes on conversations and comments intended to bully or harm, save emails related to discriminatory policies or practices, and speak with a knowledgeable Columbus lawyer for discrimination victims about your rights to take pictures and make recordings, as well as how to create such records without incurring additional mistreatment.

Be aware, too, that severe and pervasive discrimination creates a hostile work environment. To be considered severe and pervasive, the discriminatory behavior must create a recognizable harm or constitute a legitimate threat, and it must happen more than once.


What Does ‘Adverse Employment Action’ Mean?

Discrimination in hiring and employment practices can result in

  • Verbal, physical, or emotional/mental abuse;
  • Refusal to interview or select a job applicant;
  • Paying different amounts to an employee in a protected class less than other employees who do the same job;
  • Exclusion from benefits given to other employees who do the same job;
  • Assignment to dirty, dangerous, or degrading tasks;
  • Reductions in rank or pay, often for reasons that do not stand up to an investigation;
  • Denial of career opportunities like training;
  • Denial of pay raises and promotions; and

Courts also sometimes recognize constructive discharge as an adverse job action. A constructive discharge occurs when mistreatment makes keeping a job or performing all required tasks so unbearable that the victim quits.  These situations are rare so please speak with a Columbus wrongful termination lawyer before you resign due to what you believe is a hostile work environment. Hostile work environments MUST be based on a protected class, like race, religion, sex, pregnancy, etc.