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Is There a Difference Between Discrimination and Retaliation?Client-Focused & Passionate Representation

Is There a Difference Between Discrimination and Retaliation?


Being treated unfairly in the workplace is an experience that should not happen to anyone. However, employers do engage in various forms of adverse treatment of employees, and in many cases, adverse treatment can constitute unlawful discrimination or unlawful harassment. If you are facing unfair treatment in your workplace, you might have started searching for information about whether you can file a claim, and whether the actions or behavior you are being subjected to rises to the level of something unlawful. In searching, you likely have come across the terms of “discrimination” and “retaliation,” and you may be wondering if there is a difference between the two and how claims work for both.

In short, the law generally defines retaliation as a form of unlawful discrimination in many circumstances, and there are various other situations in which retaliation is also unlawful due to legal protections. Our Palm Beach Gardens employment law attorneys can explain in more detail, and we can speak with you today about the details of your case and your options for filing a claim.

Defining Retaliation and Discrimination 

Generally speaking, discrimination is a term that refers to treating someone less favorably on the basis of a characteristic. Discrimination becomes unlawful when the person being treated less favorably is being treated that way because of a protected characteristic, such as their race, religion, sex, gender, ethnicity, disability, or age.

Retaliation, according to the US Department of Labor, happens “when an employer (through a manager, supervisor, administrator or directly) fires an employee or takes any other type of adverse action against an employee for engaging in protected activity.” The US Department of Labor further explains that an adverse action refers to “an action which would dissuade a reasonable employee from raising a concern about a possible violation or engaging in other related protected activity.”

Retaliation as a Form of Unlawful Discrimination 

When an employee is subject to any adverse action as a result of exercising their rights under a law prohibiting discrimination in the workplace (such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, or the Americans with Disabilities Act), then that adverse action constitutes retaliation, which federal law considers to be a form of discrimination. According to the US Department of Justice, “retaliation is, by definition, an intentional act.” Further, it constitutes “a form of ‘discrimination’ because the complainant is being subjected to differential treatment” based on a protected characteristic or exercising rights related to protections for certain protected characteristics.

Even when a person is subject to adverse action as a result of exercising rights under other laws that are not related to discrimination based on a protected characteristic, those laws typically have regulations that prohibit retaliation. For example, it is unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an employee for exercising rights related to wage and hour laws or workplace safety laws.

Contact a Palm Beach Gardens Employment Lawyer 

If you have experienced any actions in the workplace that might rise to the level of unlawful discrimination or retaliation, you should get in touch with an experienced Palm Beach Gardens employment law attorney at Sconzo Law Office as soon as possible to find out more about your options.




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