Discrimination & Retaliation

Employee Rights In The Workplace

Outten & Golden’s discrimination lawyers represent and counsel individuals with respect to all types of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in the workplace. Our compassionate and experienced attorneys, based in San FranciscoNew York City, and Washington D.C., assist clients across the country in all types of employment discrimination and retaliation matters.

What is Employment Discrimination? 

Federal, state, and city laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of racesexsexual orientation and gender identitynational originreligionagedisability, and other grounds. New York State and New York City laws, as well as California law, go one step further and also prohibit discrimination based on marital status, citizenship, and conviction and arrest records. These laws also prohibit harassment of employees for the grounds listed above.

What is Retaliatory Discrimination?

Employees who oppose or complain about such discrimination or harassment, whether against themselves or others, within the company or in any agency or court proceeding, or who participate in any such proceedings, may have made a legally-protected complaint. Employers are prohibited by law from punishing employees for reporting workplace discrimination, or engaging in any other legally-protected activity. Punishment can be blatant, such as sudden termination, or subtle, such as moving an employee from first shift to second shift. Common examples of retaliatory behavior include: 

  • Firing
  • Demotion
  • Salary reduction
  • Shift reassignment
  • Reduction in benefits or vacation time
  • Any other negative employment action

To effectively illustrate workplace retaliation, consider the following scenario:

After coming out as gay, Robert notices that his supervisor is treating him differently. On the last Friday of every month, all employees in Robert’s department meet for pizza. This month, Robert was told that pizza night wasn’t happening, but he later discovered that everyone got together without him. Even more disturbing, someone at the office has been leaving little tiaras and pink hearts on Robert’s desk. 

Robert’s supervisor vehemently denies that any of this behavior is related to his sexual orientation, but the discrimination and harassment only gets worse. Robert goes to human resources. Although the HR director agrees to speak to his supervisor, nothing changes. In fact, things quickly get worse. 

Robert reports to work one day to find that he has been moved to a smaller office without a window because his “old office was needed as a conference room.” A week later, he requests a week off for his annual July 4th beach vacation, but his request is denied because “there are already too many people off that week.” At Robert’s annual review, which has always been a time for praises and the standard two percent raise, his supervisor refuses to authorize a raise, citing a bad attitude. 

If you have experienced retaliatory discrimination or have questions about your unique case, it is advisable to speak with a qualified discrimination lawyer as soon as possible.

How Do I Know if I Have an Employment Discrimination Case?

In the scenario above, the discrimination, harassment, and retaliation against Robert are blatant. More often than not, however, employment discrimination is much less overt. As a result, proving that you are a victim of employment discrimination can be challenging.  


A successful discrimination case requires evidence that you experienced illegal discrimination and that you suffered damages as a result. Examples of evidence include:

  • Emails, texts, hand-written notes, or voice messages containing details of discrimination or retaliation;
  • Names and contact information of any witnesses who may be willing to substantiate your claim;
  • Documentation of any complaints or reports made to your employer; 
  • A log of any discriminatory or retaliatory behavior that you witness or experience; 
  • Pay stubs, W-2s, and any documentation that show your earnings prior to the discrimination or retaliation; and
  • Documentation of employee benefits, such as medical insurance, or a pension plan, that you had prior to the discrimination or retaliation. 

The best way to know if you have a successful employment discrimination case is to consult with a retaliatory discrimination lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced discrimination attorney will evaluate your case and ensure that you understand your rights and options before moving forward. 

Examples of Discrimination in the Workplace

Federal protections against discrimination and retaliation are uniform across all 50 states, but state protections vary widely. In all 50 states, employees are protected against discrimination based on: 

  • Race, color, national origin, and citizenship status
  • Religion
  • Sex, pregnancy, and childbirth
  • Sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Genetic information

Depending on the state in which the discrimination occurs, employees may also be protected against discrimination based on:

  • Ancestry
  • Marital status
  • Military status

If an employee believes that a negative employment action was based on association with one of these protected categories, that employee may wish to bring a discrimination claim against their employer. For example, if a female employee believes that she was demoted due to her pregnancy, she may be able to recover damages for any losses suffered. If the demotion resulted in a reduction in pay, her employer may be required to compensate for lost income, in addition to other damages. The discrimination lawyers at Outten & Golden are experienced in dealing with complex discrimination cases. If you have questions or would like to make a claim contact us today.

When Does Employment Discrimination Occur?

Discrimination is not limited to on-the-job issues. It may occur before employment begins (e.g., discriminatory hiring practices or questions), during the employment relationship (e.g., discrimination in compensation, promotions, or other terms and conditions of employment), or at the end of employment (e.g., discriminatory discharge). It may even occur after employment ends (e.g., a bad reference in retaliation for objecting to discrimination).

If you are in need of an attorney for discrimination in the workplace, our discrimination lawyers have broad experience in handling all aspects of negotiation, arbitration, mediation, and litigation arising out of discrimination and retaliation on the basis of sex, age, race, religion, national origin, and other protected status.

When Should I Hire an Attorney For Discrimination at Work?

Unlawful employment discrimination occurs when an employee is treated less favorably due to their race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, age, or association with another protected category. 

Federal laws enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and other agencies, as well as state and local protections, are available to victims of workplace discrimination. In addition to protecting employees from discrimination and harassment, these laws protect employees from being retaliated against for reporting discrimination. 

If you have been a victim of employment discrimination or retaliation, you have legal rights. Consulting with a discrimination lawyer can help you to ensure that those rights are protected and that you have access to the maximum compensation available. At Outten & Golden LLP, our experienced discrimination lawyers will evaluate your case and position you for the most favorable outcome. Contact us today for a confidential consultation about your case.

(*Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.)