Workers in Indiana may not be aware that on Jan. 13, the Supreme Court heard a case that may change the way discrimination cases proceed. Depending on how the Supreme Court rules, it may become more difficult for plaintiffs in a discrimination case to win. In recent years, several cases have tightened restrictions around lawsuits based on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The case concerns Illinois mining company Mach Mining. The company was sued in 2008 for discrimination against women, but this case concerns procedure. In a typical discrimination case, prior to filing a lawsuit against a company, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission offers companies the opportunity to negotiate a settlement known as a conciliation. This is normally done privately by the EEOC, but Mach Mining is arguing that it should be done before a court.
There have been cases dismissed by judges who found fault with the conciliation process. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit sided with the EEOC. Furthermore, women's rights groups argue that making the conciliation process one that unfolds in court will discourage women from filing discrimination cases for a number of reasons including a lack of privacy and fear of retaliation. These groups argue that women in nontraditional professions will be particularly hurt by such a process since they are most likely to face workplace discrimination.
Discrimination may occur due to sex, but it is also illegal on the basis of a number of other aspects including age, race and religion. Those who feels they have been discriminated against in the workplace may wish to speak with their employer first. There may be a human resources department or a procedure set forth in the employee manual governing the procedures involved. However, if the employer is not responsive, contacting a lawyer may be the next step.
Source: MSNBC, "Sex discrimination before the Supreme Court", Irin Carmon, Jan. 13, 2015