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 show that you:
(1) are a member of a protected class (women);
(2) were discharged;
(3) were doing satisfactory work; and
(4) were replaced by a person of the opposite sex or otherwise outside the protected group.


Are women a "protected class"?


Yes. Women are considered a protected class because of the history of discrimination against them. As a statutorily protected class, women may be protected by federal, state or local anti-discrimination laws.


How do I show that my gender led to my discharge?


Any evidence that your employer took action against you because of your gender will help to prove your case. Although you may not have direct evidence of discrimination, circumstantial evidence may help you prove that your gender led to your termination. Your ultimate burden is to show that gender was a "substantial factor" in your termination. Possible circumstantial evidence may include your employer's attitude toward you, treatment of you, and any statements your employer may have made to you about your complaint or report you might have filed.


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?


If you've established an initial presumption of discrimination your employer will have an opportunity to demonstrate that it fired you for legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons. Ultimately, you must present evidence to convince the court or the jury that the given reasons are really pretext and that the true cause of your termination was because you are a woman. You must show that gender was a "substantial factor" in your termination.


Does it matter when the discrimination occurred?


Washington enforces a very strict time limit on when a claim of sex discrimination can be filed. You must file your complaint with the Commission within six months of the date of your employer's discriminatory conduct. Under federal law, however, you have three hundred (300) days to file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If you choose to sue in the courts with a private attorney you have roughly three years to file the claim; however, the sooner you talk to someone at the state or federal agency or a private attorney the better.


What options do I have if I my employer has fewer than 8 employees?


Unfortunately, under Washington law, if your employer has fewer than eight (8) employees, your legal options are severely limited. Employers with fewer than eight (8) employees are exempt from the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD). The Washington Supreme Court, however, found that the state has established a clear public policy against discrimination based on sex in both statute and judicial opinions. As a result, if you believe that you have been fired because of sex discrimination, you may have a legitimate cause of action for the common-law tort of wrongful discharge even if your employer has less than eight (8) employees.


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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