Are Retaliation Claims Easier to Prove Than Discrimination Claims?


Posted by: Chris

Federal law prohibits employers from discriminating against workers based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and age. The law also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who complain about discrimination or participate in an investigation into discrimination. Employees who are victims of discrimination or retaliation have the right to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). But, is it easier for victims to prove retaliation than discrimination? Here’s what you should know:

How to Prove Discrimination and Retaliation

The burden of proof falls on the plaintiff in both discrimination and retaliation claims. However, what the plaintiff must prove varies between these two types of claims. In both claims, the plaintiff must prove that the employer’s conduct was “materially adverse.” But in a retaliation claim, “materially adverse” is defined as conduct that would have dissuaded a reasonable person to report discrimination or participate in an investigation into discrimination. In a discrimination claim, “materially adverse” is defined as conduct that “substantially affected the terms and conditions of employment.” Many people argue that the difference in the way “materially adverse” is defined makes proving discrimination claims far more difficult than proving retaliation claims. 

For example, let’s say a victim files a retaliation complaint after being ostracized by her employer because she chose to report discrimination. Being ostracized at work is “materially adverse” conduct since it would discourage a reasonable person from reporting discrimination. Therefore, the victim would be able to prove this retaliation claim. 

Now, let’s say a victim files a discrimination complaint after being ostracized by her employer because of her gender. Being ostracized may not be considered “materially adverse” in a discrimination case since it may not substantially affect the terms and conditions of employment. However, if the victim had been fired or reassigned to another position because of her sex, this would meet the legal definition of materially adverse conduct since it directly affects her employment. 

The way that “materially adverse” conduct is defined may make proving discrimination claims slightly more difficult. However, every retaliation and discrimination claim has unique challenges. For this reason, it’s important to seek legal representation from an employment law attorney instead of attempting to handle your claim on your own. 

Have you been discriminated or retaliated against at work? If so, seek legal representation from the experienced attorneys at Armstrong & Vaught, P.L.C. at once. Our attorneys will work tirelessly to reach the best possible outcome in your case. Call us now at 918-582-2500, toll free at (800) 722-8880, or contact us online for a free consultation with a skilled attorney.