Matthew D. Besser Cathleen M. Bolek Amy S. Glesius

Bolek Besser Glesius LLC

5885 Landerbrook Dr.
Cleveland, OH 44124
United States (US)
Phone: (216) 464-3004
Fax: (866) 542-0743


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Employment Discrimination

Cleveland, Ohio Employment Discrimination Attorneys

If you have been discriminated against, harassed, or otherwise mistreated at work, you are likely are going through an extremely difficult time. You may dread going into work every day, or if you have been demoted or fired, you may be worried about supporting yourself and your family. You may not know where to turn, but you are not alone, and you are not without legal rights. You do not have to tolerate employment discrimination.

How to Recognize Employment Discrimination in Ohio

Both Ohio and federal law prohibit employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, gender, national origin, age, disability, and pregnancy. Employers may not discriminate in any aspect of employment based on any of these protected characteristics. That means employers may not consider them when making decisions about hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, demotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, or any other terms or conditions of employment.

Uncovering discrimination in the workplace can be difficult. But there are several types of common situations employees should consider when they suspect they may have been discriminated against. Some potential signs of employment discrimination include:

  • Discriminatory statements made by decision-makers or supervisors. Slurs, offensive jokes, or other biased statements relating to the employee’s age, race, sex, or other protected characteristic are often strong evidence of discrimination. Sometimes these statements come in the form of “code words,” which in context reflect a discriminatory meaning. The significance of discriminatory statements will depend on their seriousness and how closely they relate to the adverse action taken against the employee.
  • Treatment of similarly situated employees. In many cases, evidence of discrimination is found in more favorable treatment of employees outside the plaintiff’s protected group under similar circumstances. For instance, evidence that the employer fired a woman for allegedly engaging in misconduct but did not fire a male for doing the same thing could be evidence that the employer’s true motivation for firing the female employee was her sex.
  • Departure from workplace policies. An employer’s failure to follow its own relevant personnel policy in making an employment decision may be evidence that the decision was based on an impermissible bias.
  • Discrimination against others. Evidence that the employer has discriminated against other employees in the same protected group can help demonstrate discrimination against the plaintiff. Whether this evidence will be considered by a court depends on the particular circumstances.

Evidence of discrimination is certainly not limited to the above situations, but these are some common indicators that discrimination might have occurred. Cleveland employees who believe they might have been the victim of illegal treatment in the workplace should speak to an experienced Cleveland employment discrimination attorney in order to determine whether they may have a claim.

Besides just hiring and firing, illegal discrimination can take other forms as well. Harassing employees on the basis of their race, sex, age, disability, or other protected characteristic is also considered employment discrimination.

Unlawful harassment occurs when unwelcome conduct based on the employee’s protected characteristic is sufficiently severe or pervasive enough to alter the terms and conditions of the employee’s job and create a hostile environment. That conduct might take many different forms, including but not limited to offensive jokes or slurs, physical assaults, threats, intimidation, or exposure to offensive objects or pictures.

It is important to note, however, that the employment discrimination laws are not “a general civility code,” and not all inappropriate behavior creates an illegal hostile environment. Instead, each case needs to be analyzed on its own facts. Among the factors courts consider are the frequency of the conduct, its severity, whether it was physically threatening or humiliating, and the extent to which it unreasonably interfered with the employee’s job, among others. Unless the harassment is very severe—for instance a sexual assault or physical attack—an isolated incident is generally not found to be illegal.

Eliminating Policies and Practices That Discriminate

The above situations involve intentional discrimination. But Ohio and federal employment laws also outlaw other kinds of discrimination. Employers are not allowed to use workplace policies and practices that have the effect of disproportionately harming a protected group, even if the policy or practice at issue appears non-discriminatory on its face. For example, an employer who uses a promotion test that women fail at a much higher rate than men may have violated the employment discrimination laws. This type of discrimination is called “disparate impact” discrimination.

Proving illegal disparate impact discrimination first requires showing that the employer has an employment policy or practice that causes a significant disproportionately negative impact on employees based on race or some other relevant protected trait. If that showing is made, the employer will be liable unless it shows that the policy or practice is job-related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity. If the employer can satisfy its burden, the question of liability then focuses on whether there was a less discriminatory alternative that meets the employer’s business needs, and whether the employer refused to adopt it.

Helping Workers Protect Their Rights and Get Justice

In order to encourage employees to come forward, both Ohio and federal law provide strong protections against retaliation for employees who make good faith complaints of employment discrimination. The law also protects employees who participate in an investigation into employment discrimination, or who testify about workplace discrimination. Any negative action by the employer that might dissuade a reasonable employee from coming forward in the future is considered illegal retaliation. Those actions include not only firing, but other actions as well, including threats, demotions, or unfavorable performance reviews.

Victims of employment discrimination and retaliation are entitled to significant remedies. Those remedies include back pay and front pay, compensation for out-of-pocket losses, pain and suffering damages, reinstatement, and attorneys’ fees and costs of bringing suit. If the employer acted with malice or reckless indifference to the law, the employee can also recover punitive damages.

Cleveland, Ohio Employment Discrimination Lawyer

The Cleveland employment discrimination attorneys at Bolek Besser Glesius LLC have more than 40 years of experience representing employees who have suffered workplace discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. Our firm has helped many employees—from blue-collar workers to corporate executives—successfully pursue their claims, getting them the justice and the compensation they deserve.

Successfully pursuing employment discrimination cases requires an understanding that every case is different. For that reason, we tailor our strategy and advice to the facts of each client’s case, and their particular needs, concerns, and goals. We strive to help you understand your options so that you can make wise decisions about your case—whether that is settling or having your day in court. Ultimately, our goal is helping you get the best possible result so that you can move forward with your life.

If you are a victim of employment discrimination in Cleveland, Akron, Lorain County, Lake County, Medina County, or any of the surrounding areas, call us today or request a consultation to meet with an experienced Cleveland discrimination lawyer. We are devoted to justice for you.