Discriminatory Firing Claims
I think I was fired because I'm a woman, how do I prove it?
If you think you were fired because you're a woman, you must show that:
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 are protected by federal, state or local anti-discrimination laws. The Wisconsin Fair Employment Act (WFEA) prohibits employment discrimination against women.
How do I show that I was discharged for belonging to a legally protected class?
You can show that you were discharged because you were a woman by using direct or indirect evidence. A comment made by your employer such as "Women are bad workers," would give direct evidence of a discriminatory motive. However, if such evidence is lacking, you can still prove your case using indirect evidence. For example, you might show that your employer had no valid reason for terminating you and that you were replaced by a male.
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?
Your employer can deny your allegations by offering a number of valid nondiscriminatory reasons for firing you. You must respond to these reasons given by your employer by showing that they are only pretext for discrimination and that you were fired because of discrimination and not because of your employer's reasons.
Does it matter when the discrimination occurred?
Yes, you must file a claim with the Wisconsin Equal Rights Division within three hundred (300) days of the discriminatory action. For more information, please see What Does the Law Say?
Does it matter how many employees my employer has?
No, the WFEA applies to all employers regardless of the number of employees. 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 or monetary relief. However, remedies vary from case to case. For more information, please see remedies.
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