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The evidentiary significance of a corporate atmosphere of discrimination

Courts have held that proof of a general atmosphere of discrimination is not the equivalent of proof of discrimination against an individual. Nevertheless, it may be one indication that the reasons given for the employment action at issue were implicitly influenced by the fact that the plaintiff was of a given race, age, sex or religion. A jury can assess whether the defendants started with a predisposition for stereotypical male personalities, or preferred younger, white employees, etc.  Discrimination may be inferred from the attitudes of those in authority, such as company officials and senior managers.  Evidence of discriminatory comments or jokes by decision makers can show a discriminatory atmosphere.  The courts require something more than what they call “stray remarks” by non-decision makers or employees whose comments don’t influence the decision making.

Pamela A. Smith
Law Office of Pamela A. Smith
233 Needham Street, Suite 540
Newton, MA 02464


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