Illegal workplace discrimination is probably more commonplace than many people realize. While employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees and prospective employees on various grounds, employers are sometimes able to cover up illegal discrimination by covering up evidence of discrimination and offering an alternative basis for termination or other adverse action. Occasionally, an employer will be honest—even if not openly—about its discriminatory motives, and evidence will turn in upon investigation.
A recent example of this is a case involving PMT Corp., a medical device company located in Chanhassen, MN, which was recently ordered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to pay over $1million for age and gender discrimination. The company was accused of hiring 70 sales representatives between 2007 and 2010, none of which were male or over the age of 40. Although the company denied and continues to deny allegations of age and gender discrimination, and claims to have settled the lawsuit in order to avoid more litigation, the EEOC said the case was relatively straightforward since the evidence of discrimination was so direct.
In looking at the case, the EEOC determined by statistical analysis that between 34 and 40 percent of the new hires should have been female or over the age of 40, if the company was considering only the qualifications of the applicants. In addition, the case was made easier by the fact that there were explicit instructions from management not to hire candidates who were over the age of 40 and who were female.
Direct statements betraying illegal hiring practices are relatively rare, though they can and do come up. Employees who are subjected to what they believe to be illegal termination or treatment on the job, should contact an experienced attorney to have their case evaluated and properly investigated. In some cases, employers do hide explicit statements relevant to discriminatory intent, and these statements can really help build a stronger discrimination case.