How to prove a discrimination Case

In Texas, there are four requirements to establish a case of race or national origin. Courts and lawyers refer to this as “prima facie” case.

What law prohibits discrimination in the workplace?

Discrimination cases are often filed under a statute called Title VII. To learn more about Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 click here This law makes it illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. The law also makes it illegal to retaliate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit. 

In order to prove discrimination under Title VII, an employee must show that he/she: (1) “is a member of a protected class”; (2) “was qualified for [her] position”; (3) “was subject to an adverse employment action”; and (4) “was replaced by someone outside the protected class, or, in the case of disparate treatment, shows that others similarly situated were treated more favorably.” See Harrison v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 476 F. App’x 40, 43 (5th Cir. 2012) (per curiam) (quoting Okoye v. Univ. of Tex. Hous. Health Sci. Ctr., 245 F.3d 507, 512-13 (5th Cir. 2001)).

What are examples of proving up a discrimination lawsuit

In a lawsuit brought by Rose Pena against Houston Community College, Ms. Pena a 62-year-old woman of Mexican origin sued HCC after being fired after 34 years of employment. Pena alleged that HCC’s “adverse treatment” involved stripping her of her job duties. Termination, demoting, paycuts and sttripping an employee of her job duties qualifies as an adverse employment action.

Changing or striping someone of job duties in a significant way can be discrimination

“In certain instances, a change in or loss of job responsibilities . . . may be so significant and material that it rises to the level of an adverse employment action.” See Thompson v. City of Waco, 764 F.3d 500, 504 (5th Cir. 2014); see also Dahm v. Flynn, 60 F.3d 253, 257 n.2 (7th Cir. 1994) (“[I]f the duties of an assistant prosecutor were changed from trying cases to sharpening pencils, that change would be materially adverse . . . .”).

Pena’s allegations establish a “significant and material” loss of job responsibilities. She alleged that HCC took “away almost all of her job duties,” and left her “only with the most menial” responsibilities. Pena specifically alleges she was left with responsibilities for setting up for meetings (e.g., pouring water, putting out candy, setting up name plates), or ministerial duties during the sessions (specifically, working the PowerPoint). She alleges also that she was excluded from high-level meetings. Reflecting her diminished duties, Pena’s office was transferred to a storage closet that other employees frequented, apparently to make photocopies. These allegations suffice to demonstrate Pena suffered an adverse employment action.

The court held that Pena’s Amended Complaint sufficiently alleges the four elements of a prima facie case for Title VII discrimination and denied HCC’s motion to dismiss Pena’s Title VII discrimination claim.

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