What is discrimination? Well, the answer is it depends. Many people personally have a definition of discrimination. Also our society tends to have a consensus about what discrimination is, though there are particular and predictable opinions among some members of certain groups. At least, that is what we believe at Southworth PC. And, then there is what the laws says discrimination is, and more specifically what a particular judge or a particular jury member believes what the law says discrimination is.
To determine what the law says, we look at what judges are saying in their judicial decisions. The law has something called precedent. That means judges are supposed to try to rule consistently with what other judges say. But that does not always happen, or particular facts are determined to be relevant enough to change the outcome.
There are certain factors you should consider to determine if someone at your Agency is discriminating against you in violation of the law. One factor to consider is differential treatment. Look at who is similarly situated to you. Are you being treated differently despite being similarly situated in every way except for a protected characteristic such as sex? That could show discrimination. For instance, consider an example. One boss supervises five employees. He sees all five employees arrive at the exact same time – 30 minutes late. Four of the employees on men; one of the employees is a woman. He writes up the woman. We believe almost all people would see this is discrimination unless there was a reason for the differential treatment. For instance, if the woman also did something else such as yell at the supervisor when the men did not, that might matter. The truth is it all depends upon the facts.
Other factors include whether or not someone has said something to you that effectively admits they are treating you differently based on the protected characteristic. This does happen. For instance, one of our clients was terminated because she was pregnant. We know this because that’s what they told her. They also wrote it down on her termination form. They explained that her pregnancy would cost them too much because of increased insurance costs. Their actions, of course, were found to be illegal.
Also consider other factors such as the manner in which you are treated compared to other people combined with unusual circumstances. This could your boss deviating from the policies. It could include your boss overreacting. Other evidence might be that your boss is lying about a certain relevant item.
As you can see, this question can be very complex and highly fact dependent. If you have a case in this area it would probably benefit you to work with an experienced federal employment attorney, who can help you sort through what is relevant and not, and also build your case and be able to speak truth to power, as effectively as possible.
If you are a federal employee or former federal employee who is interested in a free consultation, then please feel free to contact us. We offer 15 to 20 minute consultations along with a review of your documentation to see if you have the type of case we would be interested in handling and also whether it makes sense for you to proceed with legal representation and our firm in particular.