When to file Employment Discrimination Claims in Federal Court

by Michael Lee Kraemer on Jun. 02, 2015

Employment Employee Rights Employment  Employment Discrimination Civil & Human Rights  Discrimination 

Summary: An overview of what claims can be filed in Federal Court in regards to discrimination cases.

When to file Employment Discrimination Claims in Federal Court

When filing an employment discrimination lawsuit in Federal Court like the Western District of Pennsylvania, a thought typically crosses every attorney’s mind, which is what claims should be alleged in the Complaint?

The most common types of discrimination claims fall under three federal statutes: (1) the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, (2) the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 and (3) Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. It ensures equal opportunity in employment for disabled persons. The statute specifically provides that:

No covered entity shall discriminate against a qualified individual on the basis of disability in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.
ADA, 42 U.S.C. §12112(a).The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”) prohibits discrimination against individuals who are at least 40-years of age. The statute specifically provides that:

It shall be unlawful for an employer (1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s age; (2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s age; or (3) to reduce the wage rate of any employee in order to comply with this chapter.

ADEA, 29 U.S.C §623(a). Title VII prohibits discrimination against people on the basis of race, gender, color, religion or national origin. It ensures equal opportunity in employment for ALL persons. The statute specifically provides that:

It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer (1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or (2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §2000e-2(a).

Sometimes a client has a claim under all three statutes. However, the key issue is whether all three claims should be asserted? It was during a recent CLE course that a panel of federal judges for the Western District suggested that attorneys should not allege every single discrimination claim. The reason is that if an attorney includes a weak claim for age discrimination under the ADEA when its stronger claim is under the ADA, the case is ripe for summary judgment or a motion to dismiss. The opposing counsel will sense that the ADEA claim is the weaker claim and move to have it dismissed to focus on the stronger ADA claim. Therefore, to avoid extra work, attorneys should only include their best and strongest claims. In this example, the ADA claim should be the one that is alleged in the Complaint.

The panel of federal judges during this CLE all spoke from personal experience about how many attorneys make this common mistake and how many of their claims get dismissed. Therefore, all attorneys reading this article should take note from the mistakes of other attorneys and be proactive in only filing discrimination claims that we know we can prevail on. For example, an attorney shouldn’t file an ADEA discrimination claim simply because he/she thinks there is a remote possibility that discovery might reveal some evidence that could possibly support that claim. Attorneys should get into the practice of only filing their best and strongest discrimination claims.

This Article was originally posted on the Law.com Network on December 9, 2014.

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