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A claim of employment discrimination can be brought by an employee or applicant and involves a claim that the employer treated the employee or applicant less favorably based on certain protected categories including race, color, national original, sex, age, military status, sexual orientation, pregnancy, genetic information, disability and religion.  Not every form of discriminatory or unfair treatment is illegal.


There are various federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination including:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, and religion

  • The Civil Rights Act of 1866 (“Section 1981”) prohibits discrimination on the basis of race.

  • Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”) prohibits discrimination based on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth.

  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) prohibits discrimination on the basis of age.

  • Equal Pay Act (“EPA”) prohibits wage differences based on gender.

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability (or perceived disability).  The ADA also requires an employer to provide a reasonable accommodation for an employee or applicant to the extent such accommodation would not be an undue hardship to the employer.

  • Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) prohibits discrimination on the basis of genetic information.


Harassment is also a form of discrimination made unlawful by many of these statutes.  Moreover, all of these statutes prohibit retaliation against employees who exercise their rights under the law or participate in an investigation of a discrimination or harassment claim.

In order to bring an employment discrimination claim, an employee or applicant must show that he or she was in a protected category, suffered an adverse employment action and was treated differently from similarly situated employees outside his or her protected class. 


Examples of adverse employment actions include:

  • Termination

  • Discipline

  • Failure to hire

  • Cut in pay or benefits

  • Poor performance evaluation

  • Demotion

  • Failure to promote

  • Failure to receive the same pay or benefits as employees outside protected class


If an employee is able to prove the elements of his or her claim, an employer must present some evidence of a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for the challenged employment action.  If the employer is able to do so, the employee then has an opportunity to prove pretext – in other words, that the employer’s explanation is inaccurate and is masking the true discriminatory motive.

There are strict time limits for bringing a claim of discrimination.  Lee Law Firm has significant experience with discrimination claims.  If you are in need of an attorney to bring or defend against a claim of discrimination, please contact us for a free attorney consultation.

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