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The importance of evidence in employment discrimination cases

Lawsuits are unlike many aspects of most people's lives, unless they happen to be attorneys. While you may file a lawsuit on virtually any topic, you are unlikely to be successful if you cannot support your claims with valid evidence.

This requirement for evidence can be challenging, as most people lack experience gathering the types of evidence that will be necessary for a successful lawsuit. Employment discrimination cases are difficult because evidence is often absent, or is not dispositive, with assertions that may only partially support a claim or be too ambiguous to help the party's case.

In a case from the Eighth Circuit, an employee alleged she was fired because she had taken Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave. She had requested FMLA leave twice, in 2008 and late 2010 due to the birth of her children. Later in 2011, she had a few minor job performance issues. In mid-2012, she needed more time off to attend to her son. During the fall, she had multiple errors involving her work.

At the end of September, she was terminated. She sued claiming discrimination in connection with her FMLA leave. She lost in the district court, as the court ruled she had not presented a causal connection between her firing and her use of FMLA time.

The court noted that simply because she had taken FMLA leave on a few days preceding her termination, did not imply that is why she was fired. She claimed her shipping errors were a pretext, and that other employees had made similar errors and were not terminated.

Next time, we will examine how the court analyzed her claim.


Source: HR.blr.com, "No trial and lots of errors: Employee's FMLA claim fails," Stephen W. Jones, September 14, 2015

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