Discrimination Lawsuits: Burden of Proof?

Discussion in 'Law and Justice System' started by manifold, Jan 11, 2010.

  1. manifold
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    manifold Diamond Member

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    When a company is sued for discrimination against a protected class, in regards to it's hiring, is there a presumption of innocence?

    That is, does the accuser have to prove that the company discriminated?

    or

    Does the company have to prove that it didn't?


    It seems to me that except for rare, obvious cases, proving anything either way has to be difficult, if no impossible.

    How does this work?
     
  2. manifold
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    manifold Diamond Member

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  3. bodecea
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    bodecea Diamond Member

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    In every case I've ever seen/heard of, the burden of proof is on the party saying they were discriminated against.
     
  4. JD_2B
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    JD_2B Little Vixen

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    Yes, all lawsuits rely on a burden of proof. That burden is the plaintiff's. It also does not have to be beyond a reasonable doubt, in a civil trial, the way it is in a criminal trial. In a civil trial, even if the defendant shows reason to doubt the evidence laid out against them, as long as there is evidence that shows discrimination was probable, then the plaintiff will win the suit.
    The real question in civil cases, is about damages. Often times, the damages amount to whatever promotion the person was disqualified from getting, based on the discrimination involved. The damages would be whatever added amount of money they would have otherwise gotten had they been awarded the deserved promotion. Furthermore, there are punitive damages that the court will sometimes order, if the case is strong enough to merit them. These are usually only awarded as a means of making big news, and teaching other companies who participate in certain behaviors a lesson- that they, too, can be sued for a few bucks, and end up paying thousands, or millions.

    People can prove their side by any number of means. Let's say we are talking about a potential employee situation for the position of office manager, at one of those small shipping stores, like Fed Ex or UPS, or someplace like that. If there are four people all waiting in the waiting room, one 19 year old white male, with no managerial experience, one 35 year old hispanic female, who has 12 years of management under her belt, one 27 year old black male who lacks somewhat in professional managerial experience, but has a degree (which the hispanic lady does not have) in business management, and a 38 year old cross dresser who has both a degree, and over five years of managerial experience.
    The 19 year old white boy gets the job.

    All of the employees in the office, the applicants all noticed, were also white. When they come into the store, individually, later, to mail a package, they see the inexperienced white kid, managing the office.

    They call the equal opportunity anti discrimination hotline, or whatever it is, and report it.

    The discrimination hotline can then launch a sting, if they feel that the reports are adequate enough.

    Even if they do not launch a sting, it only takes ONE person to go see a good Tort Law attorney, to initiate a lawsuit, which would be advertised as a class action, or something like that, so that the attorney can do one lawsuit, and represent all of the damaged applicants. This doesn't generally get the applicants much of a settlement, and the majority of the money will go to the attorney anyways, but as court judgments are public records and legally binding, then it will be a well known issue for the company, who will then be forced to change their ways.

    They can also subpoena all the current and even recently former employees for depositions, to make the necessary discoveries for the case to succeed.

    So anyways, that is basically how it works, in a very broad and general sense. I am sure that an actual lawyer could explain it better, and I apologize if my explanation is wrong in any way. I have but a limited degree, an AS in paralegal, so I can only tell you how it works, generally, as a result. I do hope it was helpful. =)
     
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  5. manifold
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    manifold Diamond Member

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    Thanks Vixen! :thup:


    But I think you killed my thread. :(
     
  6. goldcatt
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    goldcatt Catch me if you can! Supporting Member

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    I'll take a stab at it for you, mani. ;)

    Employment discrimination cases are more complicated than your average Idiot Number One Sues Idiot Number Two over a fender bender scenario. Generally speaking with any Federal claim, the initial burden is on the employee to prove an established practice of discrimination within the company - after which, if he or she is successful, the employer takes on the burden of showing a reasonable business purpose for their practice. It gets a lot more complicated, but that's the basic framework.

    A lot depends on whether one of the Federal agencies is involved. A discrimination claim based on ADA, IDEA, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act or most other Federal statutes enforced by the EEOC, for example, must be filed within six months of the occurrence and the Agency must give approval for a lawsuit to go forward. No EEOC blessing, no Federal suit. Period.

    Federal Laws Prohibiting Job Discrimination: Questions And Answers

    A lot also depends on the specific basis of the suit. Are we talking racial discrimination? Age? Gender? Religious? Disabled status? Different types of discrimination claims fall under different statutory guidelines which often lay out very specific or additional burdens carried by each side.

    It's also important to remember all States and some local governments have their own set of employment laws, which can be (and often, but not always, are) stronger than the Federal. A discrimination case that wouldn't fly in Federal court could, maybe, be filed in State court with whatever guidelines the State or local law sets forth.

    In other words, there's a whole bunch of answers to your one question. ;)
     
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  7. Immanuel
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    Immanuel Gold Member

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    As far as my layman's understanding goes, it is supposed to be the burden of the accuser to prove his/her case. However, in reality, the "presumption of innocence" is, in fact, a figment of our imaginations and it ends up that the accused must prove his/her innocence.

    Immie
     
  8. bodecea
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    bodecea Diamond Member

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    Really? What body of legal evidence has led you to that conclusion?
     
  9. Immanuel
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    Immanuel Gold Member

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    Having been falsely accused of a crime. I/we had to prove our innocence. We were never "presumed innocent". It was a good thing that we had documented our defense.

    Immie
     
  10. JD_2B
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    JD_2B Little Vixen

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    Exactly!! In criminal court, you can get off on reasonable doubt, which is where it is generally pretty easy for people who are innocent to not end up with a criminal record. The civil courts are different though. All that is really needed is a preponderance of evidence. Even with reasonable doubt, the plaintiff will often times win the suit, and the rest is a matter of damages awarded. At the very least, a defendant who has evidence in their favor can be found to be less responsible than 100% for whatever happened. The plaintiff also has to abide by the reasonable person standard, too. If some 250 pound chick/ gothic girl with a million tats, or 45 year old bag of wrinkles walked into Hooters trying to get a job serving, then it would be within Hooters rights to deny her employment, if the only jobs available were serving jobs, based on her appearance. A man who walked into hooters trying to be a server would also be turned away. Not BECAUSE he was a man, or she was 45, or 250 pounds, or gothic, etc, but because the restaurant wants to have an atmosphere that caters to people who are active, younger, and give a college atmosphere to young working professionals, also. I mean, you don't see coed naked dancing at strip clubs, either. It is either an all male or an all female adult entertainment club. It certainly could be inferred that those clubs discriminate by not hiring people based on their gender, but that is just a little out there.

    Consider the Sears tool department. (or whatever it is called) Some woman might say that because mostly men work in there, and no females, either, then that is why she was not hired. She might not have been hired because she didn't know what a phillips screwdriver was. The gender thing comes secondary in certain fields, because on the same token, how many men will you see working in a day care?

    =)
     

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