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Our employment attorneys have previously blogged about how employees prove race/color, religion, gender/sex (including pregnancy and LGBTQ+ status), national origin, and disability claims against their employers. (Best Law Read: How Do You Win A Wrongful Termination Claim?; How Do You Win A Discrimination At Work Lawsuit?; What Laws Protect Employees From Race Discrimination?; Does Title VII Prohibit All Discrimination?).

In most cases, absent direct evidence of discrimination, employees will have to show circumstantial evidence that their employer discriminated against them. In these cases, the employee must establish a prima facie case of discrimination. (Best Law Read: What Does Prima Facie Mean?; How Do You Prove Causation In Wrongful Termination Cases?;). The burden then shifts to the employer to state a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the termination or adverse action. The burden then finally falls on the employee to show that their employer’s stated reason for the termination or adverse action is pretextual, or more simply put, not true. (Best Law Read: Employment Discrimination Question: What Is Pretext?).

How do I show that my manager’s reason for firing or demoting me was a lie?

Wrongful Termination Lawyer Answer: After the employer provides its legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for taking a particular adverse action or termination, an employee can show “that the employer’s explanation is unworthy of credence because it has no basis in fact. Alternatively [an employee] may show pretext by persuading the court that a prohibited reason more likely motivated the employer.” Banford v. Bd. Of Regents of Univ. of Minnesota, 43 F.4th 896 (8th Cir. 2022). In looking to show that a prohibited reason more likely motivated the employer in taking the action, the employee can show that similarly situated employees were treated differently. Id.

What is an example of a court examining pretext?

Best Sexual Orientation Discrimination Attorney Answer: In Banford, a LGBTQ+ women’s softball head coach and part-time Director of Operations for the women’s hockey team sued the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) after they relieved her of her Director of Operations position. Banford claimed that UMD terminated her position because she was gay.

In 2014, UMD relieved Banford of her Director of Operations position, along with firing the women’s hockey head coach and two assistant coaches, all who were also members of the LGBTQ+ community. UMD did not fire all members of the women’s hockey staff, retaining a strength and conditioning coach, the Sports Information Director, and an athletic trainer.

UMD’s stated reason for taking the adverse employment action was when a Division I head coach is fired, it is typical to fire other staff members who work closely with them. This allows the incoming head coach to select their own staff.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit held that Banford could not show that UMD’s legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for terminating Banford’s Director of Operations position was pretextual.

In arriving at its holding, the court examined whether UMD gave an honest explanation of its behavior, finding it credible that UMD would want to allow its new head coach to choose her Director of Operations.

The court further discussed that Banford was unable to show that Banford was treated differently than similarly situated employees. The court explained that while Banford pointed to the three staff members that were retained as comparable employees, the strength and conditioning coach and Sports Information Director were not proper comparable employees as they also were gay. The court further stated that the athletic trainer was also not a similarly situated employee.

The athletic trainer was not similarly situated to Banford because their duties were different and reported to different people. Additionally, as the Director of Operations, Banford required significantly more cooperation with the head coach than the athletic trainer.

How do I sue my employer?

Best Employment Lawyer Answer: If you are an employee who feels that you are being discriminated against, subject to retaliation, or wrongfully terminated, do not hesitate to call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation. (Read: What is the Spitz No Fee Guarantee?; Why Having Skilled Employment Attorneys Is Critical). Call our lawyers in Ohio, Michigan and North Carolina to get help now. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm and its experienced attorneys are dedicated to protecting employees’ rights and solving employment disputes.


This employment law website is an advertisement. The materials available at the top of this wrongful termination page and at this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking, “What do I do if my employer is discriminating against me”, “How do I sue my employer for wrongfully terminating me ,” or “What should I do if my employer retaliates against me” or “I was fired for because my manager found out that I’m gay”, it would be best for to contact an experienced attorney to obtain advice with respect to any specific employment law issue or problem. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm, Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.

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