District of Columbia Human Rights Act Jury Instructions 24.01 – 24.04
The Washington D.C. Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations, and educational institutions. The act is based on 21 protected traits: race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, family responsibilities, political affiliation, and disability. Depending on the situation, these traits apply: matriculation, familial status, genetic information, source of income, place of residence, status as a victim of an intrafamily offense, credit information, and status as a victim or family member of a victim of domestic violence, sexual offense, or stalking.
In this post, we will cover Section 24.01 – 24.04 of the proposed jury instructions for cases alleging human rights violations.
Section 24.02 informs the jury that adverse employment actions may not be made on account of one’s race, color, sex, etc. More specifically, based on an individual having a certain trait, an employer “may not fail or refuse to hire, or to discharge, or to not promote, or segregate or classify employees in some way that deprive employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee.” Similar rules apply to employment agencies and to labor organizations.
The instructions move forward by establishing the ways in which a judge evaluates DCHRA cases. There is a three-part formula used by courts. Knight v. Georgetown, 725 A.2d 472, 478 (1999).
The plaintiff must establish a prima facie case of unlawful discrimination. To do this, the plaintiff must show that he belongs to a protected class, is qualified for the position, that he was the subject of an adverse employment decision, and that race played a substantial role.
The employer must rebut the presumption “by articulating some legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the employment action at issue.” Id.
The employee must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the reason for the adverse personnel action is due to his or her race, color, etc.
Later, however, in Brady v. Office of the Sergeant at Arms, 520 F.3d 490, the rule was revised; the ruling opined that it does not matter whether the plaintiff made out a prima facie case, and that the court only must resolve one question: “Has the employee produced sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to find that the employer’s asserted non-discriminatory reason was not the actual reason and that the employer intentionally discriminated against the employee on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin?” Id.
The final section we will cover today is about language use. The instructions note that legalese confuses the jury. The jury serves as fact finder, so it “need not be told about concepts that guide the judge in determining whether the case merits jury consideration.” Cabrera v. Jakabovitz, 24 F.3d 372, 380 (2d Cir. 1994).
If you’ve been the victim of negligence or wrongful conduct, the attorneys at Cohen & Cohen can help you get the compensation you deserve. Contact us today at (202) 955-4529 for a free case evaluation.