Our Nashville employment discrimination lawyers represent workers throughout Tennessee who have been subjected to unlawful treatment at work.
Every employee deserves a work environment free of discrimination and harassment. Federal and Tennessee employment laws prohibit discrimination against individuals because of a legally protected class in the terms and conditions of employment, including in:
- Other terms and conditions of employment
Every employment situation is unique, but some common factors that impact whether your workplace discrimination claims might be legally viable include:
- Statute of Limitations: Discrimination laws have strict deadlines by which you must take legal action or the claims are barred from court, so you must ensure your deadlines have not expired. In Tennessee, the deadline to file federal discrimination claims with the EEOC is 300 days from the adverse action.
- Adverse Employment Action: The plaintiff must have suffered from an adverse employment action, such as being fired, demoted, denied a promotion, rejected for a job, forced to transfer, given a pay cut, or harassed severely or for a long period of time.
- Legally Protected Class: The adverse employment action must have occurred at least in part because of a legally protected class such as race, color, age, sex, disability, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity, or national origin. The mere fact that an employee belongs to a protected class is not enough to prove discrimination.
- Size of Employer: Most federal employment laws only apply to companies with at least 15 employees, while most Tennessee state laws apply to companies with at least 8 employees. The size of an employer also determines the maximum amount an employee can recover in non-economic damages in a lawsuit. For example, the maximum damages cap under federal law ($300,000) applies to employers with more than 500 employees.
- Employee’s length of tenure, job performance, and discipline history: Generally, the longer the length of tenure with no performance or discipline issues, the more credibility the employee will have in legal proceedings.
- Evidence of Discrimination: There must be evidence showing a connection between the adverse employment action and unlawful discrimination. Most evidence in discrimination cases is circumstantial and may include:
- Discriminatory Comments: Slurs or crude “jokes” based on a legally protected class (such as race or gender), especially when the individual who made the remarks is a supervisor or manager or had influence in the decision to take an adverse employment action against the employee
- Timing: The timing of the adverse employment action can be relevant as circumstantial evidence. If an employee is fired soon after complaining about discrimination, the close timing suggests the complaint caused the termination.
- Unequal Discipline or Treatment: Evidence that an employer treats people of different classes differently under similar circumstances can be evidence of discrimination. For example, if a female employee can show that a male employee committed a nearly identical act of misconduct but was given lesser discipline, it could be evidence of sex discrimination.
- Lack of Documentation: For example, if you are fired due to performance issues, but there is no documentation of performance issues, this undermines the employer’s justification for the adverse action.
- Shifting Explanations: If the employer’s justification for taking an adverse employment action changes over time, that can be evidence that the real reason is unlawful discrimination.
- False Justification: Evidence showing the employer’s explanation for why they took an adverse employment action against you is false can support an inference of discrimination.
- Failure to Follow Company Policy: Failing to follow written policies or procedure, such as progressive discipline, may support an employee’s claim of discrimination.
Our workplace discrimination lawyers in Nashville closely evaluate discrimination claims to determine whether they meet our criteria for accepting matters on a contingency fee basis. You can contact us at the number above or online.Overview of Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws
The primary anti-discrimination laws at the federal level include:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Prohibits discrimination against job applicants, employees, and former employees based on race, color, religion, national origin, or sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity).
- Americans with Disabilities Act: Protects against disability discrimination and requires reasonable accommodation of disabilities absent undue hardship.
- Pregnancy Discrimination Act: Prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy in hiring, firing, and other terms and conditions of employment.
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act: Prohibits age discrimination in employment for employees aged 40 and up.
- Equal Pay Act: Requires equal pay for substantially equal work regardless of gender.
- Section 1981 (42 U.S.C. § 1981): Protects against race, color, and ethnicity discrimination in employment.
- Tennessee Human Rights Act: Prohibits discrimination against applicant and employees based on your race, color, gender, national origin, creed, or age. The THRA applies to employers with 8 or more employees.
- Tennessee Disability Act: Protects against disability discrimination, but does not require employers to provide reasonable accommodation to employees with disabilities.
- Tennessee Equal Pay Act: Requires employees be paid equally for work that requires comparable skill, effort, and responsibility that is performed under similar working conditions regardless of gender.
Depending on what laws apply, you can choose to file discrimination claims with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Tennessee Human Rights Commission (or, for some claims, directly in court).
Our Nashville-based workplace discrimination lawyers file discrimination complaints on behalf of Tennessee workers with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and then federal court, for claims under various federal and state laws.
You can contact our firm at the number above or online.Unlawful Retaliation for Reporting Employment Discrimination
Retaliation is a real concern that deters many workers from reporting workplace discrimination. However, federal and state laws prohibit retaliation against an employee who reports workplace discrimination. As such, your employer cannot legally fire you for speaking against unlawful treatment at work. To learn more about retaliation, visit our page on Retaliation for Opposing Discrimination or Harassment.How Much Money is a Workplace Discrimination Case Worth?
Employment discrimination cases vary significantly based on many factors, including what laws apply, the strength of the evidence, severity of the discrimination, the extent of the plaintiff’s damages and mitigation, the size of the employer, any history of prior bad acts by the employer, and the scope of accrued fees and costs.
Regardless of these factors, damages in workplace discrimination cases may include:
- Back Pay: This compensates the plaintiff for the lost wages and benefits suffered as a result of the discrimination. Back pay is awarded from the date of the adverse action until the date of the court judgment.
- Front Pay: Front pay is intended to compensate you for lost wages and benefits in the future due to the employer’s actions.
- Reinstatement: In cases where the employment relationship is not irreparably damaged, the court may order the employee be reinstated to his or her former position, including seniority and pay increases the employee would have earned if not for the adverse employment action.
- Compensatory Damages: These damages are meant to compensate the plaintiff for any emotional or physical harm suffered as a result of the employer’s actions. In general, the more evidence the plaintiff offers to show their pain and suffering caused by the employer (such as medical evidence), the more compensatory damages a jury is likely to award.
- Punitive Damages: These are meant to punish the employer and deter it from committing similar unlawful acts in the future. Punitive damages are only awarded in cases with evidence of intentional discrimination or other egregious conduct.
- Attorneys’ fees and costs: If you go to trial and win, the employer may be required to pay your attorneys’ fees and costs.
You can read more about the types of damages available in an employment discrimination case and how they are calculated here.Federal and Tennessee Damages Caps
While a jury can award you all the back pay and front pay you have accrued, compensatory and punitive damages in most employment cases are limited, or “capped,” by law based on the size of the employer, as follows:
- 8-14 employees ($25,000)
- 15-100 employees ($50,000)
- 101-200 employees ($100,000)
- 201-500 employees ($200,000)
- 501 or more employees ($300,000)
These limits do not apply to claims for discrimination based on race, color, or ethnicity filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1981.
It’s important to understand that these limits were set over 30 years ago, in 1991, and have never been increased. Because these limits have not kept up with the times, they are not always enough to compensate an employee for their damages or to make filing an expensive lawsuit economically feasible, especially against small employers.
You can read more about caps on damages and other considerations that go into determining damages amounts here.Are Discrimination Claims Usually Settled?
Yes. About 95% of discrimination claims are settled before trial.Take Action Against Unlawful Employment Discrimination
You deserve to be made whole for the discrimination you have endured. Our firm fights hard for our clients and we only represent employees. Take action today by contacting our Nashville workplace discrimination lawyers at the number above or online for your free online case review.