lgbtq woman experiencing discrimination

Ask the Attorney: Who is considered a “similarly situated employee” in my employment discrimination case?

By Thomas McKinney

If you are going through a discrimination lawsuit, you may see the phrase “similarly situated employee” somewhere in your case. This blog will define “similarly situated employees” as those who share similar job descriptions, work in the same environment, and are subject to the same standards and policies. The blog serves as a crucial resource for understanding how the concept applies to various discrimination cases, its relevance in establishing a prima facie case of discrimination, and its role in comparison analysis during such legal proceedings.

What Is a “Similarly Situated Employee”? 

When it comes to employment discrimination cases, the concept of a “similarly situated employee” plays a crucial role in determining the validity of discrimination claims. This term refers to a fellow employee or colleagues who are used as a point of comparison to evaluate whether an employee has been subjected to differential treatment based on a protected characteristic, such as race, gender, age, or disability. Understanding who is considered a similarly situated employee is essential in establishing a prima facie case of employment discrimination and, ultimately, seeking legal redress for unfair treatment in the workplace.

The principle of a similarly situated employee arises from the need to establish a baseline for evaluating the alleged discriminatory actions. It serves as a benchmark to determine whether the treatment an employee has experienced is indeed discriminatory or whether it can be attributed to non-discriminatory factors, such as performance or job-related considerations.

Several factors are considered when determining who qualifies as a similarly situated employee:

  1. Job duties and responsibilities: A similarly situated employee should typically have a similar position, responsibilities, and duties as the plaintiff. If the job roles are significantly different, it can be challenging to make a comparison.
  2. Qualifications and experience: Employees being compared should possess similar qualifications, experience, and skillsets. Differences in qualifications may justify differential treatment, so it is essential to assess whether the employees are reasonably comparable in these aspects.
  3. Work performance: The performance of both the plaintiff and the similarly situated employee is an essential factor. If one employee consistently outperforms the other or has a history of misconduct, it may affect the validity of the comparison.
  4. Protected characteristics: The employees being compared should share relevant protected characteristics. For instance, if an employee alleges gender discrimination, the similarly situated employee should also belong to the same gender to make a valid comparison.
  5. Treatment under similar circumstances: To establish a prima facie case of discrimination, it’s crucial to show that the plaintiff and the similarly situated employee were treated differently under similar circumstances. This means that both employees should have faced similar challenges, incidents, or opportunities for comparison to be valid.

It is also important to note that the definition of a similarly situated employee may vary depending on the specific facts of each discrimination case and the applicable jurisdiction. Courts will typically examine all relevant factors to determine whether the comparison is appropriate and whether discrimination has likely occurred.

New Jersey Employment Law Attorneys

The concept of similarly situated employees is a pivotal element in employment discrimination cases. It is also one of the many legal complexities involved in bringing an employment discrimination claim. For knowledgeable, experienced employment law counsel, reach out to the team at Castronovo & McKinney. Contact us today.

About the Author
Tom McKinney is an experienced NJ Employment Lawyer in all major areas of labor and employment law, including discrimination, harassment, overtime violations, wage and hour claims, sexual harassment, wrongful discharge, Title VII, ADA, ADEA, FMLA, LAD, FLSA, and all other employment law claims. Tom is admitted to practice in the States of New Jersey and New York, United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Southern District of New York, District of New Jersey, and United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Prior to forming the firm, Tom practiced at Gibbons P.C. in Newark, NJ. If you have any questions regarding this article, contact Tom here today.