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Retaliation May be Easier to Prove Than Discrimination

Federal anti-discrimination law such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects against various forms of discrimination. This includes prohibitions against sex, race, gender, religion and national origin. One of the ways the law protects you is that it not only forbids taking these factors into consideration when making employment related decisions, it also prohibits your employer from retaliating against you for complaining about discriminatory actions, or supporting another worker's claim of discrimination.

Retaliation can take a number of different forms, but generally refers to negative employment actions that result from your complaints, such as not receiving a deserved promotion, being transferred to an undesirable location, having worse/inconvenient hours, or any other retribution doled out in response to your allegations.

In a recent case against FedEx, a woman asserted retaliation after filing a claim for discrimination. She first asserted gender discrimination, and then retaliation for the company’s actions arising out of her claim. According to court documents, the worker was demoted, and management explained to her that she should accept her new role because "females are better suited to administrative roles” (Hubbell v. FedEx SmartPost, Inc., Nos. 18-1373/1727 (6th Cir. Aug. 5, 2019)).

Further, after she filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), about her treatment, she endured negative retaliatory conduct including unfair discipline, and being unable to earn overtime pay similar to other workers. She was also very closely watched and was eventually fired.

A jury found in her favor and awarded damages including front and back pay, non-economic damages, punitive damages, as well as attorney’s fees.

The court explained the differences in proof between retaliation and discriminatory conduct. The former requires a showing that the employer took action that might "dissuade" a worker from coming forward whereas the requirements for a showing of discriminatory conduct are much stronger - generally requiring proof that the adverse action “substantially affects the terms and conditions of employment.”  Thus, it may be easier to maintain a successful claim of retaliation than one for discriminatory conduct.

For more information or if you believe you have been subjected to discrimination or retaliation, please contact the Georgia employment discrimination lawyers at Buckley Beal, LLP for an immediate consultation.

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