Is this sex discrimination?

My employer fired me for theft of a vacuum that my boyfriend took to try and fix, after he had advised another coworker of such. Other male employees have taken items from work that were later returned without being reprimanded or terminated. Is my termination legal?

Ann Kiernan replies:

It is clear that if two employees commit a similar offense, an employer may not discipline them differently because of their race, color, religion, sex, disability or any other protected characteristics.

So, how do you prove that your firing was sex discrimination? There are three steps.

I. The employee’s prima facie (“first showing”) case:

1. A woman

2. Was meeting the normal requirements of the position

3. Was discharged or disciplined

4. While similarly situated men were retained or not comparably disciplined.

II. The employer’s rebuttal: What was the reason for discipline/discharge?

III. The employee’s showing of pretext: Is there direct or circumstantial evidence that the employer treated men with similar performance/conduct problems more favorably?

Based on what you have told me, there may well be sex discrimination going on. You may want to consult with a local employment lawyer to get more information about your rights. Good luck.

Posted 03-08-2016

Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.


About the Author:

Ann Kiernan has litigated claims of wrongful discharge and discrimination before state and federal courts and administrative matters before the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, representing both employers and employees. Ms. Kiernan co-hosted The Employee Rights Forum, a weekly radio call-in show reaching up to a half-million listeners in the New York metropolitan area, and her articles on employment law have been published in many books and magazines. Both as a firm partner and as a director, Ms. Kiernan gained solid experience in management and human resources compliance. She has worked with Fair Measures since 1997.