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How Can You Prove a Case of Sexual Discrimination at Your Job?

How Can You Prove a Case of Sexual Discrimination at Your Job?

Federal and state laws prohibit workplace discrimination based on sex, gender and orientation, requiring employers to treat everyone equally when it comes to interviewing, hiring, paying, promoting, disciplining and firing. Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act and New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) also give victims of discrimination the ability to hold employers accountable in court.

However, it can be challenging to prove a Title VII or NJLAD case because employers seldom reveal that they intentionally engaged in sexual discrimination. Yet, as courts have emphasized for decades, what makes an employer’s personnel action unlawful is the employer’s discriminatory intent.

Because of the difficulty in obtaining evidence of discriminatory intent, New Jersey and federal courts analyze employees’ sexual discrimination claims under the McDonnell Douglas framework, which is named for a 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision. The parts of the framework are:

  1. Proof by the employee of the prima facie elements of discrimination
  2. Production by the employer of a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the adverse action
  3. Demonstration by the employee that the employer’s avowed reason is not the true reason for the action but is instead a pretext for discrimination

The prima facie elements of discrimination are that the employee was a member of a protected class, was performing at a level that met the employer’s legitimate expectations, was discharged in spite of this performance and was replaced by a person of a different gender. The New Jersey Supreme Court has held that a prima facie case requires only “modest” evidence tending to show that discrimination could be a reason for the employer’s action.

If the employee makes out a prima facie case, then the employer must articulate a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for the action it took. The employer must produce evidence showing that there is a genuine issue of fact as to whether it discriminated against the employee.

At that point, the burden falls upon the employee to prove that the employer’s reason is false and that its actions were really motivated by discriminatory intent. Direct evidence (such as a written statement) is not needed. Instead, the employee can try to demonstrate that the employer’s reason is implausible, incoherent, inconsistent or contradictory.

As you can see, proving sexual discrimination at your place of employment can be difficult. If you feel you were victimized, you should speak with a qualified employment attorney to learn what steps you should take to assert your rights.

The attorneys of Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt, P.C. in Hackensack represent gender discrimination victims in New Jersey and New York. We have decades of experience and know how to handle these complex cases. Schedule a confidential consultation with one of our employment discrimination lawyers by calling 551-245-8894 or contact us online.

Neil  H.  Deutsch Attorney Photo
Neil H. Deutsch

Neil H. Deutsch has been practicing law for over 35 years and is known as a skilled negotiator in employment and discrimination law. He believes in a bottom-line approach of risk analysis and cost effectiveness for his clients. "Case evaluation is something we take seriously," says Mr. Deutsch who seeks top net dollar for his…

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Bruce L. Atkins
Senior Partner

Bruce L. Atkins is regarded as one of New Jersey’s premier practitioners of employment and civil litigation. He has been selected to the New Jersey Super Lawyers prestigious list every year since 2005.  This honor, bestowed upon a recipient by the votes of his peers, is a powerful nod to the skill Mr. Atkins brings…

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Adam J. Kleinfeldt

Adam J. Kleinfeldt joined Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt, P.C. in March of 2015.  He primarily represents individuals in employment litigations such as discrimination, retaliation, and whistle blowing matters.  He has extensive experience in all phases of the litigation process. Adam has obtained significant results for some of his clients, including a $525,000 jury verdict in…

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Diane Englander Peyser

Diane Englander Peyser joined Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt, P.C. in September 2018 where she represents employees in wrongful termination, retaliation, harassment, and discrimination matters. Prior to joining Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt, P.C., Diane represented clients in all aspects of employment law on behalf of employees involving unemployment appeals, claims of sexual harassment, LGBT discrimination, disability…

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Debra M. McGarvey

Debra M. McGarvey joined Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt, P.C. in December 2019. She has extensive experience defending employees and employers in state and federal court in employment litigation matters. She has represented clients on various issues arising out of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA), the…

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