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The steep burden of proof in discrimination cases

Workplace discrimination is illegal. Most employees, employers, and even potential employees know this. Over the years, the United States has made a lot of progress in changing the mindset regarding discrimination and making it a something that cannot legally happen.

That's not to say that it does not happen, however. Experts warn that there is still a very steep burden of proof when looking at these cases because the only thing that can really be legislated out is the intentional. Discrimination has to be done on purpose, for illegal reasons, and those who are discriminated against have to prove that that's the case. This is not easy to do.

The issue is that employers who discriminate can still lie. Your boss cannot say that he's firing you because you're a woman, for instance, or because you're black. But he or she can fire you for a minor infraction, blaming the firing on something legal—maybe you were late for work once or twice—when the real motivation is that your boss wants to fire you on illegal grounds. It's very hard to prove that the firing was intentionally discriminatory and illegal.

Employers may also accidentally discriminate based on their own prejudices. For example, a hiring committee often has to make gut choices about which prospective employees they like the most or which ones they think will fit in the best. If those people are already biased, even if they don't admit it, they could be more prone to hire the people they like better, even if they only prefer those candidates because of their gender, race, religion, or something else of that nature.

Again, this can be terrifically hard to prove, so you must know all of your legal options in Michigan.

Source: The Atlantic, "A Simple, Legal Way to Help Stop Employment Discrimination," Philip Cohen, accessed May 10, 2016

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