Discrimination and Retaliation
Discrimination is the unlawful and unfair treatment of a person based on the following protected classes:
- Disability (mental or physical, real or perceived)
- Gender/Sex (See Sexual Harassment)
- Sexual Orientation
- National Origin/Ethnicity
- Pregnancy Status
- Family Medical Leave Status
It is also unlawful to treat someone different because they are associated with a person who has any of the above characteristics. This is called associational discrimination.
Retaliation is distinct from discrimination and is any adverse action against someone who has complained that they, or someone else, is being treated unfairly under the law. For example, when an employee is subjected to a hostile work environment, a common and often appropriate response is to report the harassment up the chain of command. Any adverse action that the employee suffers for making such a report can give rise to a retaliation claim that is independent to the underlying discrimination claim.
Many discrimination lawsuits have a retaliation element to them. It is not uncommon for the retaliation portion of a lawsuit to be stronger than the discrimination portion of a claim, since the standards for proving retaliation are generally lower than proving discrimination.