What is Discrimination?

Discrimination occurs when employers treat employees differently under similar circumstances. An important part of analyzing any potential discrimination case is figuring out why the employer took a certain action. Because employers rarely admit to unlawful discrimination, employees who believe they have been discriminated against should consider a variety of things.

Why did the employer single me out?

The difference between discrimination and unlawful discrimination is simple, yet vitally important. Discrimination is a difference in treatment under similar circumstances whereas unlawful discrimination is a difference in treatment under similar circumstances that is prohibited by a specific federal, state, or local law. Common types of discrimination experienced by Indiana workers that are unlawful include discrimination based on sex, race, age, religion, national origin, disability, and pregnancy. Common types of discrimination that are not covered by any laws in Indiana include discrimination because of tattoos, body piercings, pay rate, personality, and, in most cases, sexual orientation.

Are there any co-workers who were treated better than me by the employer under similar circumstances?

Employees who believe they have been singled out based on their sex, race, age, religion, national origin, disability, and pregnancy are often required to establish that they were treated differently than one or more co-workers who engaged in similar conduct in order to prevail on a discrimination claim. An employee’s ability to identify individuals who engaged in the same type of conduct as the conduct that led to their termination and who had similar disciplinary histories can often be the difference between a successful discrimination case and an unsuccessful one. It is difficult, and often impossible, to demonstrate a difference in treatment without an example to which the employer’s handling of a situation can be compared.

Are there any lawful reasons for the employer to have singled me out?

Employers often cite multiple reasons for a disciplinary action. A mixture of legitimate performance issues with unlawful ones does not necessarily mean the employee cannot prevail, but it may limit the recovery an employee can receive and reduce the employee’s chances of success.

Has the employer’s explanation for the disciplinary action remained consistent?

Employers who engage in discriminatory actions often create a false justification for their actions. In addition to being dishonest, this can lead to problems for the employer when they are confronted with information that contradicts the reason(s) originally cited for the disciplinary actions that were taken. When the explanations given by an employer for disciplinary actions change, even if that change is slight, unlawful discrimination may be occurring.