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Executives often lack protection from discrimination

Workplace discrimination suits face legal hurdles when the plaintiff is a high-level executive or a partner at a California firm. To qualify for protection from discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, a person must be an employee instead of an employer. For people who hold positions of authority and power, the law might classify them as employers.

People at this level typically present complaints based on age discrimination, harassment or continually being denied promotions. A case decided by the Supreme Court of the United States in 2003 established a test to determine whether a person is an employee or employer.

It examines the plaintiff's ability to hire or fire others and how much the company supervises the individual's work. Whether or not the person reports to a higher executive affects the employment classification as well as the person's influence over the company and ability to share in profits, losses and liabilities. The presence of a written contract declaring that the person is an employee also matters. The conclusions drawn from the legal test should be taken as a whole, and, if the plaintiff appears to be an employer, then the court will issue a summary judgment in favor of the firm.

A person experiencing workplace discrimination because of sex, age, disability, race, religion or national origin could discuss the problem with an attorney. After reviewing the situation and researching employment laws, an attorney might determine that a lawsuit could be an appropriate action. An attorney could collect evidence, including witness testimony and workplace correspondence, and file the court papers. Damages sought could include compensation for the losses that have been incurred.

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