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What is pretext in a workplace discrimination case?

On Behalf of | Apr 14, 2023 | Workplace Discrimination

Workplace discrimination remains an all-too-common problem in the U.S. In fact, according to statistics from NASDAQ, more than half of workers claim to have experienced it directly. Even more workers say they have witnessed illegal workplace discrimination happen to someone else.

Most employers recognize that discriminating against employees can violate both federal and state law. As a result, it is not uncommon for employers to come up with a seemingly legal rationale to justify their behaviors. In the employment law context, this is pretext.

Hiding true motivations

In simple terms, pretext occurs when employers provide a false reason for terminating employment or otherwise discriminating against workers. For example, despite actually firing an employee because of the color of his or her skin, an employer might blame the termination on failure to meet sales goals. Remember, your employer may have an incentive not to be forthcoming with you.

Uncovering the truth

As you might suspect, it can be difficult to prove that your employer is not being truthful. If you need to show that your employer’s explanation is merely a pretext, you must offer evidence that shows your adverse employment action was due to something other than your employer’s explanation. Statements from colleagues, past performance reviews, employment records and other documentation can be useful.

Your employer should not be able to escape legal liability by covering up the real reason for your mistreatment. Ultimately, if you can show your employer’s explanation is a pretext, you are likely to have a greater probability of prevailing with your workplace discrimination complaint.



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