Discrimination Lawsuits in Georgia, ‘Comparators,’ and What Does (or Does Not) Make Workers ‘Similarly Situated’

When you’re pursuing an employment discrimination case, the court will be looking for certain types of proof from you, including evidence that the employer treated you less favorably that a similarly situated coworker. “Similarly situated,” in this context, means someone who’s professionally very much like you except that they fall outside the protected class that serves as the basis for your lawsuit. These coworkers are called “comparators” and you can name one or name several. Succeeding in a case that demands comparator evidence means understanding exactly how similar you and that coworker must be, which is one of many areas where having a knowledgeable Atlanta employment discrimination lawyer on your side can be crucial.

As an example, we can consider the race and age discrimination case of K.L., a Black man in his 50s who worked as a security guard at a medical center. The guard’s job entailed guarding “patients who were considered especially at risk for harming themselves or others.” The guard’s employer fired him after he allegedly left a high-risk patient unattended for “some period of time,” during which time the patient escaped.

After the termination, K.L. sued for race discrimination under Title VII and age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

That meant that, for a comparator, he needed someone who was similar to him except younger and/or not Black. He named exactly one — a white female colleague in her 30s.

When it comes to choosing a comparator, there are certain things you should seek as a court will often weigh these factors favorably in assessing whether you are similarly situated. For example, do you have the same supervisor and/or work in the same division/unit/team? Do you have job duties that mirror one other or are highly similar? Do the two of you share similar levels of professional experience? Do you share similar performance assessment and workplace discipline histories?

Too Many Dissimilarities to Meet the Legal Standard

Unfortunately, K.L.’s younger coworker wasn’t sufficiently similarly situated. Both workers were involved in escape incidents, and the coworker was not Black and below the age of 40, which worked in K.L.’s favor.

However, in the younger guard’s case, the patient’s escape did not occur as a result of her having left that patient unattended, whereas in K.L.’s case that was exactly what allegedly occurred. Additionally, K.L.’s disciplinary history with the employer was distinguishable from the younger woman’s… and distinctly more problematic. These were very crucial differences and doomed the man’s case.

Another factor that likely diminished the guard’s chances of success was his decision to proceed without an attorney. An experienced discrimination lawyer potentially could have spotted the younger white coworker’s lack of similarity and helped K.L. identify a different colleague with greater similarity, thereby giving his case a stronger chance of success.

Your discrimination lawsuit is far too important to risk handling on your own. The knowledgeable Atlanta age discrimination attorneys at the law firm of Parks, Chesin & Walbert are here to help. We know what it takes to get results for discriminated workers, and we’re eager to get started on your case. Contact us through this website or at 404-873-8048 to schedule a consultation.

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