Federal and state laws prohibit employers from discriminating against employees based on the following characteristics:
The law also prohibits harassment that is based on these protected classes, and employer retaliation for asserting the right to be free of discrimination. These laws apply to hiring, promotion, job assignment, termination, and compensation.
Which Employees Does the Law Protect?
For most types of discrimination, a private employer is not subject to anti-discrimination laws unless it has had 15 or more employees for at least twenty weeks in the past year. For age discrimination, a private employer must have 20 or more employees, and with the Equal Pay Act virtually all employers are covered.
What Evidence Is Required to Prove Employment Discrimination?
The best way to prove discrimination is direct evidence against an employer, such as a statement, e-mail, letter, or memo that shows the employer took action against you based on a discriminatory motive. In most cases, though, direct evidence isn’t available. Instead, you have to rely on circumstantial evidence to prove your case.
Circumstantial evidence is evidence that would make a person believe discrimination occurred but is not direct proof of it. To win a case using either direct or circumstantial evidence, you need to show that a discriminatory reason more likely than not motivated your employer’s action against you. When circumstantial evidence is involved, a three-step test called the McDonnell Douglas framework is typically used.
Steps for Proving Most Employee Discrimination Claims
First, an employee must make a “prima facie” case of discrimination by showing that certain circumstances existed that would lead a person to presume that the employer’s action was based on discrimination.
Second, if the employee makes a prima facie case, then the employer must provide a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for its action.
Third, if the employer provides a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason, then the employee needs to show that the employer’s stated reason is merely “pretext,” or a cover-up, for discrimination.
Learn more here and by clicking on the individual types of discrimination.
What Remedies Are Available in a Discrimination Case?
An employee who wins a discrimination case may be entitled to the following, depending on the type of case and the severity of the discrimination:
- Back pay: lost earnings resulting from the discrimination;
- Front pay: lost future earnings resulting from the discrimination;
- Benefits: lost benefits resulting from the discrimination, including health and dental insurance, pension or 401(k) plans, stock options, and profit sharing;
- Emotional distress damages: mental or emotional injuries (i.e. pain and suffering) resulting from the discrimination;
- Punitive damages: a monetary award in malicious or reckless cases, which is designed to punish the employer and deter the employer from repeating its discrimination;
- Attorney fees and costs: an award to cover attorney fees and costs, such as court fees and expert witness fees.
There are limits on the amount of compensatory and punitive damages available. Also, an employee who was discriminated against in hiring, firing, or promotion may be placed or reinstated to the desired position.
What Protections Does the State of Nevada Have?
Nevada has similar laws that prohibit discrimination. The requirements depend on the type of discrimination. An employee may have a claim under both federal and state law, or, in some cases, just one or the other.
What Is the Process for Filing a Discrimination Complaint?
Employees who wish to file a lawsuit against an employer for discrimination must first file a charge either with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) or the Nevada Equal Rights Commission (“NERC”). There are a couple of exceptions. In most cases, an employee must file a charge with the EEOC or NERC within 300 days of when the discrimination occurred.
The EEOC or NERC will review the charge, investigate, and in most cases issue a “Notice of Right-to-Sue,” which allows an employee to file a lawsuit. In egregious cases of discrimination, the EEOC or NERC will file a lawsuit on an employee’s behalf; otherwise, the employee should hire an attorney.
An employee has 90 days to file a lawsuit after receiving the Notice of Right-to-Sue, with some exceptions.
What to Do?
Contact me today if you believe you have a claim of employment discrimination, or if you are an employer who needs to defend against an employment discrimination claim.
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