Employee’s Guide to Filing a employment discrimination lawsuit in 2024

If you believe you have experienced discrimination or harassment based on a protected class, you may be entitled to damages. By filing an employment discrimination lawsuit, you assert that your employer, union, or labor organization has engaged in employment discrimination against you.

Understanding employment discrimination

To discriminate against someone means treating that person differently or less favorably for various reasons. The results of discrimination can be employment discrimination. For instance, you can be discriminated against by employers, managers, coworkers, labor organizations, business owners, and employment agencies.

However, not all discrimination is illegal discrimination. For example, many states, including Pennsylvania, are at-will employment states. At-will employment means that an employer has the right to fire an employee for any reason not prohibited by law.

Nevertheless, even though Pennsylvania is an at-will employment state, an employer cannot illegally discriminate against any employee. Getting professional advice from the top employment discrimination lawyers will help you ensure whether you are eligible to file an employment discrimination lawsuit or not

When is employment discrimination legal?

For example, John has bright red hair. He applies for a job but is told that the company he is applying for does not accept employees with red hair. Has John been discriminated against? Yes. John was treated less favorably as he has red hair. However, the type of discrimination he faced was not illegal. After all, discrimination based on hair color is not illegal under any laws. 

With the extensive experience and training of discrimination lawyers, they can help you understand employment discrimination laws and give you insights on the latest discrimination 2023 updates.

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When is employment discrimination illegal?

Discrimination is illegal when it is banned or prohibited by state, federal, or city anti-discrimination laws. The anti-discrimination laws prohibit employers from harming employees’ job opportunities as the employee is a member of a Protected Class.

Note that being a member of a protected class is essential for any employment discrimination lawsuit. Therefore, ensure you fall into a protected class before taking any other steps to file a lawsuit.

employment discrimination lawsuit

Protected classes in employment discrimination lawsuits

The protected classes vary from agency to agency. However, the most common protected classes are based on:

  • Age.
  • Disability.
  • Race or color.
  • Domestic or sexual violence.
  • National origin.
  • Sex.
  • Pregnancy.

Meanwhile, the following groups are protected from employment discrimination.

  • Education Level.
  • Economic Class.
  • Illegal or undocumented aliens. 
  • Social Membership.
  • People with Criminal Records.

How do I know if I have a claim or not?

If your employer is taking adverse employment action against you based on your status in a protected class, they have engaged in illegal employment discrimination.

Adverse employment actions include:

  • Denied training.
  • Demotion.
  • Unreasonable disciplinary action.
  • Failure to accommodate a known disability or religious requirement.
  • Failure to promote when appropriate.
  • Termination.
  • Harassment.
  • Being paid less.
  • Refusal to hire.

Statute of limitation in an employment discrimination lawsuit

If your state or local law has an anti-discrimination law, you have 300 days to file your claim. However, under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA), you have 180 days to file your claim with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and get a fair discrimination lawsuit settlement. 

You can also file before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which means you also have 180 days to file your claim. Note that the EEOC and PHRA have a work-sharing agreement. Therefore, you can file under either the PHRA or the EEOC to protect your rights.

Talk to a Philadelphia discrimination lawyer to ensure you know what to do and do not run out of time.

How to prove a discrimination claim?

To prove a lawsuit against an employer, the employee has to show the following:

  • The employee underwent an adverse employment action, including but not limited to the ones listed above.
  • The employee is a member of a protected class;
  • The employment action was based on or motivated by the individual’s membership in a protected class.

Consequently, the employer has to show that its actions were based on a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason.

How to prove employer liability?

With limited exceptions, employers are liable for the actions they commit. In addition, employers can be liable for the actions of others. For instance, employers can be liable for discriminatory or harassing behavior from:

  • Managers, supervisors, or others who are higher up in the chain of command.
  • Coworkers, when reported to human resources, a supervisor or manager, or someone higher-up in the chain of command.
  • Clients, customers, or other third parties who have higher up in the chain of command.

Compensatory and punitive damages in a workers discrimination lawsuit

Federal workplace laws (such as Title VII) typically authorize the same damages as the PHRA but also allow compensatory damages.

Compensatory damages are intended to compensate for the loss suffered by the employee and can include emotional pain and suffering (like grief, anxiety, and depression), inconvenience, loss of enjoyment of life, future monetary losses, and other non monetary losses. They are often called “actual damages”.

Meanwhile, some states, like New Jersey, Delaware, and Wisconsin, also award punitive damages. These damages are available when an employer acts with “malice or reckless disregard” for the employee’s rights. Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are designed to punish the employer and make it an example for others. It’s not the severity of the discrimination that matters for punitive damages, but whether the employer knew (or should have known) that its actions were unlawful and chose to do them anyway. Punitive damages are only available against private employers.

Compensatory and punitive damages are capped depending on the size of the employer. The average settlement for a discrimination lawsuit starts from $50,000 to $300,000. To learn your employer’s cap, look at the number of employees:

  • 500 employees or more, $300,000.
  • 201-500 employees, $200,000.
  • 101-200 employees, $100,000.
  • 15-100 employees, $50,000.

These discrimination lawsuit settlement payouts are separate from lost wages and other damages awards.

An employee may also be entitled to liquidated damages. Under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Equal Pay Act, employees who win their employment discrimination lawsuit can also be awarded liquidated damages, also known as double damages, because it doubles the back pay if they can prove that the employer willfully discriminated against them.

The Investigation Process: Step-By-Step

After you have filed your claim, the PHRC will start its investigation.

  • The Philadelphia Commission will send your complaint to your employer.
  • This process is called serving the complaint.
  • The Commission will assign an investigator to your case.
  • The investigator will gather information from both you and the employer. Your employer is identified as the Respondent, while you are identified as the Complainant.

Exceptions regarding employment discrimination

Certain exceptions to laws make it “legal” to discriminate against employees or applicants based on sex, religion, or national origin. One of these is the bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ). It says that it is okay to ignore age discrimination laws if the job qualifications are crucial to the normal operations of the business.

For example:
  • The applicants over 50 may not be hired as police officers because of the demanding physical requirements for officers.
  • Employees over 60 years old and are in a top executive position requiring stressful and important decision-making may be required to retire after a certain age under the BFOQ.

There are certain religious exemptions as well. The law recognizes that in an employment discrimination lawsuit, religion plays a critical part in employment and job-related decisions. Thus, in these cases, employers can discriminate based on religion, gender identity, or even sexual orientation. Houses of worship and religious schools have a complete exemption, while other religious organizations may have the ability to apply certain religious requirements to their employees.

An employment attorney will evaluate your employment discrimination case, advise you of potential risks and hurdles, and help you understand what you could win.

Why choose Ethen Ostroff Law?

To help establish and prove your employment discrimination lawsuit, the victim needs the support and assistance of an experienced employment lawyer. Ethen Ostroff Law large network of attorneys can help you locate a suitable lawyer to handle your case and win maximum compensation. What are you waiting for? Contact Ethen Ostroff Law now at 610-510-8883 ( by calling this number, you consent to receive SMS updates from Ethen Ostroff Law) or Submit Form to get free consultation.

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