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Workplace discrimination can be made to look like something else

Most employers already know that there are laws prohibiting them from discriminating against certain protected classes of workers. However, that doesn't mean that certain types of back-door discrimination don't take place every day.

For instance, if you are an older worker with colleagues who are decades younger than you and you work in a youth-centered industry, your employer is not going to be able to terminate your employment simply because you're well into your 50s. But that doesn't mean that he or she can't try to set you up to fail.

The burden is on you to prove discrimination

A discrimination case is a bit like a badminton match, in that the plaintiff must first establish that he or she is indeed a member of one of the protected classes of workers. They must also be able to show that they experienced some sort of negative event, e.g., termination, harassment, etc., and then link that negative event to their being a member of the protected class.

At that point, the employer or other defendant must show that the negative event occurred legitimately for reasons other than discriminatory ones. Again, the burden of proof pivots back to the plaintiff or complainant, who must then show that the stated reason given was only a pretense for the discrimination that he or she faced.

What pretenses can an employer use?

To continue with our example of age discrimination, an employer could refute claims by stating the older employee was fired due to his or her inability to grasp new technological concepts. Sometimes it is indeed harder for older employees who grew up in a pre-internet world to master all the technologies involved with communicating in today's world. While almost everyone can now open and send emails and texts, mastering Skype, cloud-based storage and other technological advances can be stumbling blocks for some.

If an employer is able to refute the claim with examples of the employee's failure to timely master the skills necessary to perform his or her job duties, the claimant can lose his or her case at that point. It's important to build a solid case, supported by evidence that should include witness testimonies, if possible.

An employment discrimination attorney is a strong ally

If you are alleging discrimination against you occurred in your workplace, in addition to evidence and witness testimonies, your strongest ally is an experienced legal advisor by your side. Your attorney can articulate your claim and substantiate your allegations with legally-sound arguments that refute your employer's denials. This can make the difference between winning or losing a discrimination case.

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