The Supreme Court of the United States recently issued a ruling in a workplace discrimination case that could make it more difficult for victims of discrimination to collect damages. The case revolved around a municipal bus driver who had been terminated from her employment a mere six days after she told her boss that she was pregnant.
She sued for pregnancy discrimination and a lower court agreed, finding that discriminatory conduct had indeed taken place. However, an appeals court and later the Supreme Court found that she was not entitled to the damages awarded by the lower court.
Apparently the jury should have been instructed that the employer could avoid being held liable if it could show that she could have been terminated for legitimate reasons, even if there was evidence of discrimination. In this case, the employee had been involved in several accidents and could have feasibly lost her job for non-discriminatory reasons.
Employment discrimination occurs when an employee faces adverse treatment in the workplace based on his or her membership in a "protected class." That adverse treatment may come in the form of harassment, wrongful termination, decreased opportunity, denial of pay or benefits, limited access to training or any other treatment that negatively affects the person's career or employment.
Protected classes include a person's race, age, religion, national origin, disability status and, in some cases, sexual orientation. If you feel that any of these factors have caused you to be a victim of discrimination or harassment in the workplace, the consequences can have a lasting impact on your career. Consider speaking with an experienced employment law attorney who can advise you of your rights under state and federal law, as well as work with you to pursue any appropriate legal claims and fight for the best possible outcome in your case.
Source: The San Francisco Chronicle, "Discrimination ruling could hurt workers' lawsuits," Kathleen Pender, Feb. 16, 2013