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Employment Law Blog
James Tarquin, P.A
As part of our commitment to assist and educate employees in fighting back against the abusive employment practices of employers, we offer a broad range of information about employment law issues in our employment blog.

What Is The Most Common Way Employees Prove Unlawful Employment Discrimination?

Serious ethnic businesswoman talk with male colleague at meeting

For more than twenty years, our employment discrimination lawyers in Marion County, Florida have litigated employment discrimination cases in Florida courts. Through their decades of experience representing employment discrimination victims, our employment discrimination attorneys in Ocala, Florida have learned that unlawful employment discrimination is most often proven through the disparate treatment discrimination theory. As the U.S. Supreme Court in Teamsters v. United States, 431 U.S. 324 (1977) observed, “disparate treatment . . . is the most easily understood type of discrimination.” Disparate treatment discrimination occurs when an employer treats an employee differently or less favorably than others because of the employee’s race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, religion, disability, or age. As the U.S. Supreme Court explained in Hazen Paper Co. v. Biggins, 507 U.S. 609 (1993), discrimination can in some situations be proven “from the mere fact of differences in treatment.” In this article, our employment discrimination lawyers in Marion County, Florida explain how the alleged facts in Onely v. Redner’s Markets, Inc., 2023 WL 6626120 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 11, 2023) are illustrative of how discrimination is proven through the disparate treatment discrimination theory.

Employment Discrimination Lawsuit

In that case, a woman named Onely brought a race discrimination claim against her former employer, Redner’s Markets, Inc. (“Redner’s”), pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”). Title VII protects employees from race discrimination. Onely, who is African-American, claims that she was fired because of her race in violation of Title VII.

Onely worked as a seafood associate in the Meat Department. At the Redner’s store where she worked, Onely was the only African-American employee. Onely’s firing arises out of an alleged sexually explicit conversation between Onely and a white co-worker named McGrory. The parties dispute the particulars of their discussion. After an investigation, Redner’s concluded that Onely had violated the company’s sexual harassment policy by bringing up sex toys in a conversation in the workplace. Onely, on the other hand, testified that she believed that she and McGrory were at least equally culpable. As she tells hit, McGrory and Onely were discussing the moving “50 Shades of Grey.” Although Onely admits that she was the first one to bring up the movie, she denies that she mentioned using a sex toy in that conversation. Instead, Onely insists that it was McGrory who brought up using a sex toy for prurient purposes (they had been talking about pranking a male co-worker by putting one in his coat), telling Onely where to purchase one in a subsequent conversation. The parties agreed, no matter who started discussing sex toys, having a conversation about this at work violated the company’s sexual harassment policy.

Ultimately, Onely was terminated over the phone for sexual harassment in violation of company policy. Redner’s did not discipline McGrory for her conduct because the store’s manager did not believe that she had violated company policy.

Different Treatment Is Evidence Of Discrimination

Redner’s filed a motion with the trial court seeking dismissal of Onely’s race discrimination claim. In moving for dismissal, Redner’s argued that the Onely was fired for a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason—her purported violation of the sexual harassment policy. The trial court denied Redner’s motion for dismissal and ruled that Onely was entitled to proceed to a jury trial on whether she was fired because of her race in violation of Title VII.

In denying Redner’s motion for dismissal, the trial court focused on Redner’s more favorable treatment of McGrory. The trial court observed that Onely claims that McGrory “was the one who shifted the tone of their discussion of the movie ‘50 Shades of Grey’ and brought up where to purchase sex toys.” This evidence, the trial court concluded, was sufficient “to raise an inference that [Onely] and McCrory had violated company policy in similar, perhaps even identical ways.” However, the court observed, “the parties do not dispute that McGrory was not disciplined at all, let alone fired.” Given Redner’s “failure to discipline McGrory at all for the same (or at least similar) violation of company policy,” the trial court concluded, the jury could find that Onely’s race and not Onely’s violation of company policy was the real reason for her termination.

Free Consultation For Discrimination Victims

One of the most important decisions employment discrimination victims must make is which employment law attorneys to consult with regarding their rights under federal employment discrimination law. As part of our dedication to helping employment discrimination victims, an experienced employment law attorney will speak with you personally and you will receive the individualized attention your case deserves. We offer free confidential case evaluations for employees, and you will not have to pay to speak with our employment discrimination attorneys regarding your rights. We are available for consultation at your convenience, including scheduling telephone consultations for evenings and weekends.

Marion County, FL Discrimination Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing workers throughout Florida, our employment discrimination attorneys in Marion County, Florida have dedicated their practice to fighting for the rights of employment discrimination victims. If you have experienced employment discrimination or have questions about your protection from employment discrimination, please contact our office for a free consultation with our employment discrimination lawyers in Marion County, Florida. Our employee rights law firm takes employment discrimination cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.

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