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What proof of discrimination at work do I need to include in a discrimination complaint?

There are two types of evidence that can be used to prove discrimination at work: direct evidence and circumstantial evidence.

Direct evidence is the strongest type of evidence used to prove that discrimination occurred. Direct evidence includes witnessed verbal or written statements by your employer that demonstrate that your protected class status had a direct impact on their decision to take adverse employment action or to make changes to the details of your employment. An example might include a verbal statement by an employer that they are firing you because you are a pregnant woman and they are looking for a man to fill your position. If you have a witness who heard the statement, then this direct evidence is strengthened by the witness’s ability to corroborate it. Another example might be an email with a discriminatory statement made about your protected class.

Circumstantial evidence is the more common form of evidence used in cases of illegal discrimination, as many companies will try to conceal outright discriminatory behavior. Examples of circumstantial evidence include but are not limited to:

  • Observations of your employer treating you differently than other employees with the same job qualifications as you but who are part of a different protected class status
  • Evidence of your company’s prior discriminatory practices
  • Significantly fewer employees of your protected class status in the workplace
  • Derogatory comments by your employer or coworkers about your protected class status
  • Jobs given to people who have fewer qualifications than applicants of a different protected class status

If you believe you were discriminated against in the workplace, speak to an experienced employment attorney to help determine your rights.

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