Using Circumstantial Evidence in Texas Employment Discrimination Cases

According to federal law and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employers cannot discriminate against employees based on their race, age, disability, or other protected characteristics. Employers also cannot retaliate against employees for complaining of discrimination.

An employee who has been discriminated against must first present a prima facie case of discrimination. To fulfill this burden, an employee must establish that they were a member of a protected class, that they were qualified for the job, and that they suffered some kind of adverse employment action based on their class status.

Although these steps may seem straight forward, employees often face difficulties proving that the adverse action was based on their protected class status because employers are frequently able to conceal their true discriminatory motives. In many cases, employers will obscure their motives behind neutral reasons such as “business interests” or an employee’s performance. In these cases, direct evidence of discrimination is often very difficult to obtain. However, employees can still succeed in a Texas employment discrimination lawsuit even if their employer cites a nondiscriminatory reason for its actions.

One way this is true is through a jury instruction that there can be more than one reason for an adverse employment decision. These cases are called “mixed motive” discrimination cases. In such cases, the employee does not need to prove the illegal reason was the only cause of the adverse employment action, only that it was a contributing factor. Additionally, an employee can establish the employer’s proffered reason for the adverse employment action was mere “pretext” for an illegal motivation.

Circumstantial Evidence in Employment Law Cases

In a 2003 case, the U.S. Supreme Court held that circumstantial evidence can be used to prove certain employment discrimination claims. There are several ways an employee can utilize circumstantial evidence to prove their case. One way is to provide documentation that indicates the employee’s good standing, or, in the alternative, a lack of documentation of any performance issues. By doing so, an employee can show that, to the best of their knowledge, they were in good standing at the time of the adverse employment action.

Employees can also provide evidence their employer was bolstering the alleged legitimate basis for their actions after-the-fact. This occurs in situations where employers use evidence of misconduct that occurred after the negative employment action was taken against the employee. Employees may also show the employer’s proffered legitimate reasons are contrived by showing the employer shifted reasons for the action.

Similarly, the employee can show the employer failed to follow their own policies and practices or that their treatment is inconsistent amongst employees. Finally, the timing of an adverse employment action is considered in determining whether the action was illegal. For example, an employee may be able to show that negative action was taken shortly after they made a complaint against the employer.

Have You Been Discriminated Against by Your Employer?

If you have suffered discrimination or retaliation by your employer, you should contact the dedicated and experienced Dallas employment lawyers at Rob Wiley, P.C. who who can help you understand your rights and remedies. Contact the law firm today at 214-528-6500 to schedule a consultation.

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