Discriminatory Firing Claims
I think I was fired because I'm a woman, how do I prove it?
To prove that you were fired because you are a woman, you must prove:(1) that you are a member of a protected class (a woman);
Are women a "protected class"?
Yes, women are considered a protected class because of the history of discrimination against them. A statutorily protected class, such as women, is one that benefits from the protections of federal, state or local anti-discrimination laws.
How do I show that my membership in a legally protected class led to my discharge?
You must show that your employer's decision to fire you was based on intentional discrimination. Depending on the facts of your case, you can show discrimination in a number of ways. For instance, you may present evidence that your employer made comments about how women do not perform the job as well as men, or statistical evidence that women who are doing equally good work are fired at a higher rate than men. However, in the end, you must present enough evidence to persuade a judge or jury that your employer decided to fire you because you are a woman.
I've just received a warning from my employer, and I suspect I will be fired soon. What should I do?
If you receive a warning from your employer, your first instinct may be to panic or even become angry. Depending on the circumstances, you should remain calm, especially since your employer may continue monitoring your work. Generally, you should begin gathering information: clarify the warning if necessary by asking your employer, get a copy of company policy on warnings/dismissals to ensure that your employer is following its own policies, talk to trusted co-workers to see if they have any insights into what they have observed in the workplace, keep track of the date/time of interactions with your employer as well as any documents that may be relevant, and, most importantly, consider whether the warning may have something to do with sex discrimination or complaining about sex discrimination. Ask yourself if your employer's warning comes on the heels of your confronting the company about sex discrimination. If so, there may be more to the warning than meets the eye.
What can I do to protect any legal rights I might have before leaving my job?
The easiest way to protect your legal rights before leaving your job is to document everything. Even if you initially feel as if your firing was not retaliatory or discriminatory, cover all of your bases by asking for the termination letter in writing, and saving all written warning letters. To aid in any potential claims you may have against your employer, document the dates of any decisions or actions affecting your employment, including salary or benefit increases/decreases, recommendations, and reprimands.
I am being forced to leave my job. But before I go, my employer requires that I sign a document promising not to sue. Is that legal?
It is not illegal for your employer to get you to sign a waiver of your right to sue as part of a severance agreement. Be conscious that you are taking a risk if you sign a waiver, as they are generally enforceable. If you have any doubts about your employer's reasons for firing you, especially if you think your employer may be retaliating or discriminating against you, you should consult with an attorney before signing anything.
What could my employer do to deny my allegations, and how do I respond to their denials?
Once you have shown that your termination was motivated by the fact that you are a woman, your employer may try to offer legitimate and lawful reasons why you were fired. For example, your employer may argue that sex is a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ), meaning that sex is a characteristic they can use to discriminate as long as it is reasonably necessary to the operation of their business. If they are able to present legitimate reasons for your termination, it is then your burden to ultimately convince the court that your employer wrongfully fired you because of your sex.
Does it matter when the discrimination occurred?
Yes. You must sign and file a verified complaint in writing with the Missouri State Human Rights Commission ("the Commission") within one hundred eighty (180) days of the alleged act of discrimination. For more information on how to file your claim, please see How Do I File a Claim?
What options do I have if I my employer has fewer than 6 employees?
If your employer has fewer than six (6) employees you may not sue under the Missouri Human Rights Act. However, you may have other options. For more information, please see What Does the Law Say.
If I prove my wrongful termination claim, what kind of remedies am I entitled to?
You may be entitled to injunctive relief or monetary damages. For more information, please see Remedies.
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