How can employment discrimination be proved?

Prima Facie Case

An employment discrimination claim may be established through direct or indirect evidence. Under the “burden shifting” method of proof, an employee is initially required to establish: (1) that he or she is a member of a protected class; (2) that he or she was satisfactorily performing his or her job duties; (3) that adverse job action was taken against him or her; and (4) that similarly situated employees who are not members of the employee’s protected class were treated differently or more favorably than the employee under similar circumstances.

Employer’s Proffered Reason

If an employee establishes a prima facie case of employment discrimination, the employer may come forward and proffer a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the adverse job action.

Pretext

If the employer comes forward with a proffered reason for the challenged job action, the employee must prove that the employer’s proffered reason is really pretext to mask intentional employment discrimination.  Pretext may be established by showing that the proffered reason is untrue, not the real reason, contrived, suspicious, or unworthy of belief, etc.

Employee’s Ultimate Burden of Proof

Ultimately, the employee must prove that the adverse job action resulted from intentional discrimination.  Proving discriminatory intent usually involves a discriminatory animus on the part of the employment decision-maker.