Some people may not believe it, but gender discrimination continues today, from California to Missouri to Virginia. Around the world, to be frank. Such discrimination violates an individual’s civil rights and should be brought to justice. And the best way to do that is by hiring a gender discrimination attorney who will advocate on your behalf.
Gender Discrimination in Missouri: How to Prove Your Case With the Help of a Gender Discrimination Attorney
The strength of your gender discrimination case depends on a number of facts and circumstances. Most of these claims come down to the decision maker’s intent. Say that a manager made a decision based on bias against a protected class of people. That manager would undoubtedly be guilty of discriminatory acts.
But it’s difficult to prove what’s inside another person’s head. This is why discrimination cases are very fact-intensive in nature. Many times, you must provide enough evidence – circumstantial or otherwise – to convince a judge a decision was motivated by prejudice. A manager will never openly declare they don’t want to promote a woman to management. Instead, evidence must be collected and presented to substantiate your case.
Evidence Is Vital
Gender discrimination can take different forms, and the evidence you must provide depends on the type of discrimination you specifically suffered. To illustrate, your employer may have assumed that because you’re a woman, you’re not as physically strong as a man. They then gave a job assignment you wanted to a male co-worker. This is known as gender-based stereotyping and is just one example of the discriminatory acts that prevail today.
Several different types of evidence can be used to substantiate your case. Circumstantial evidence is that which proves a fact by inference rather than a direct connection. To illustrate, seeing sunlight stream in through a window is circumstantial evidence the sun is out. On the other hand, walking outside and seeing the sun for yourself is direct evidence the sun is out.
Circumstantial evidence is the most common way employees prove their discrimination cases. Courts have even developed a foundation known as the McDonnell Douglas framework to analyze circumstantial evidence in employment discrimination cases. Under this framework, employees must first present evidence showing:
- They are members of a protected class
- They were qualified for the position they held
- They suffered an adverse action by their employer (such as being fired)
- They were replaced with a worker who is not a member of that same protected class
If you can establish these elements, the burden then shifts to your employer to provide counter-evidence. More specifically, they must show a legitimate reason for the adverse employment actions taken against you. If your employer is able to do this, the burden shifts back to you. You must then show the employer’s evidence was simply a pretext for discrimination or was combined with a discriminatory motive.
Here is another scenario to consider. Imagine a woman who is well-qualified for a position is fired and replaced by a male. This alone establishes the first step under the McDonnell Douglas framework. But if the woman’s employer offers evidence showing she was fired because of repeated tardiness, the employee must provide new evidence showing the tardiness argument is a guise for discrimination.
This is when direct evidence becomes crucial to the strength of your case. Direct evidence is proof of discrimination without the need for inferences or presumptions. This can be in the form of emails, written documents, or statements. Such evidence can, in some cases, be hard to come by. It may also be less obvious than you want it to be. After all, employers rarely send letters to employees stating they’re being fired because of their gender.
Additional examples of direct evidence include sexist comments made to other employees. If you can get co-workers to provide written witness statements detailing their own experiences, you have a real chance of convincing the court of your case. A manager’s history of only promoting men or women, not a fair combination of the two, may also be relevant, particularly if it can be shown that candidates of the opposite sex but same ability were turned down.
Keep Important Messages and Documents
You may think a voicemail, email, or text from your manager is insignificant, but it’s crucial you keep everything you receive. This gives your gender discrimination attorney more to work with, and they can then decide what’s relevant to your case and what’s disposable.
Here is a perfect example: perhaps you were interested in a position with your company that entails heavy lifting. After applying, but before the chance to interview, you received a text stating the job was already given to a male colleague. The text then went on to say that although your colleague had been with the company for less time than you, management knew him to be strong and capable of handling manly responsibilities.
Make Note of Conversations
Your manager may have given specific reasons for firing or not promoting you. If, for instance, they said you are not assertive enough, you may be able to argue this statement is based on gender stereotypes rather than actual qualifications. Likewise, your manager may have verbally assumed you’re unwilling to travel because you have children – when you are in fact agreeable to doing so. This can arguably be described as another gendered statement.
The best thing you can do is make note of these verbal statements with the date and time. These records in conjunction with hard evidence like notes and/or witness statements can prove highly valuable. Odds are that a pattern of your manager’s behavior can be established with the right number of workplace memos and other documents. Your gender discrimination attorney will assist with the evidence-gathering process to build a solid case.
When Only Circumstantial Evidence Is Available
As mentioned before, hard evidence can be difficult to get. Missouri employers are usually very aware of the state and federal laws that prohibit gender discrimination. This doesn’t mean they always follow the laws but that they instead take great pains to cover their tracks. You may therefore lack any documentation to support your claim.
You can still present a successful claim even if you have only circumstantial evidence. You and your attorney will simply need to work a little harder to establish your case. Keep in mind your attorney will also have access to resources like expert witnesses and scholars. They can weigh in on your case and help make it as powerful as possible.
The Missouri Commission on Human Rights accepts formal complaints of gender discrimination. Complaints must be filed within 180 days of the incident to preserve your right to sue your employer in civil court, as provided by RSMo Title 12 §213.111.
The court may award you one of several remedies, depending on the nature of the discriminatory behavior and adverse action taken against you. It’s important to know damages are limited according to the business size, as measured by the number of employees. Examples of available remedies include:
- Recovery of legal expenses
- Award of real and punitive damages
- A temporary restraining order
- A permanent or temporary injunction
If you have been the victim of gender discrimination, you should contact an attorney as quickly as possible. This will ensure your claim gets underway in a timely manner and that the evidence you need is both preserved and collected. Schedule your free consultation today by contacting Holman Schiavone, LLC.