When Your California Discrimination Case May Also Be a Retaliation Case

At Romero Law, APC, our seasoned California employment law attorneys are acutely aware that a discrimination case can also morph into a retaliation case. Regrettably, this often occurs swiftly and significantly impacts the employee’s well-being. It’s crucial to underline that while this is not uncommon, it is strictly and unequivocally illegal.


If an employer takes adverse action against an employee due to their involvement in a protected activity, the employee may have more than one legal claim against their employer. This is where we step in. Our mission is to safeguard the rights of California workers, ensuring they are thoroughly protected and have the necessary legal resources to hold their employers accountable for their illegal conduct.

Let’s delve into a real-life scenario that starts as a disability discrimination claim and rapidly escalates into a secondary violation of retaliation. This will provide you with a clearer understanding of the potential complexities and the pressing, urgent need for immediate legal intervention in such cases.

Disability Discrimination Scenario

An administrative assistant at a large corporation has a chronic medical condition that qualifies as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Her condition sometimes causes severe pain, making it difficult for her to perform her job duties without reasonable accommodation.

She informs her employer about her disability and formally requests a reasonable accommodation. She provides medical documentation supporting her request and asks to work from home twice weekly and have a modified work schedule to attend medical appointments.

Instead of engaging in an interactive process to discuss her accommodation request, her manager dismisses her request, stating that the company does not allow remote work and that her position requires her to be in the office full-time. Moreover, her manager starts making derogatory comments about her medical condition, implying that she is not fit for the job.

Following her accommodation request, her manager significantly changed her job duties, assigning her menial tasks that were not in her job description. She was also excluded from important meetings and projects that she previously led, so she filed a complaint with the Human Resources department about her manager’s refusal to accommodate her and the discriminatory comments.

After filing the complaint, the manager retaliates by giving her unjustified negative performance reviews, not based on her actual job performance but on fabricated issues. Eventually, she is demoted to a lower-paying position with fewer responsibilities.

How the Workplace Scenario Reaches the Legal Threshold for More Than One Employment Law Claim

While the administrative assistant is certain her workplace rights have been violated in more than one way, a legal threshold must be met to pursue a discrimination and retaliation claim.

It includes:

The employee engages in a protected activity, such as:

  • Complaining about discrimination.
  • Filing a discrimination complaint with the company or a government agency.
  • Participating in an investigation or lawsuit related to discrimination.
  • Opposing discriminatory practices in the workplace.

The employer takes an adverse action against the employee. Adverse actions can include:

  • Termination.
  • Demotion.
  • Reduction in pay or hours.
  • Unfavorable job assignments.
  • Negative performance reviews.
  • Any other action deterring a reasonable person from engaging in protected activity.

A causal link must exist between the protected activity and the adverse action. This means the adverse action must result from the employee’s engagement in the protected activity.

Evidence of a causal link can include:

  • Temporal proximity (the adverse action closely follows the protected activity).
  • Evidence of retaliatory motive, including statements by decision-makers and inconsistent reasons for the adverse action.
  • Comparisons to how other employees who did not engage in protected activity were treated.

If an employee successfully proves a retaliation claim, remedies can include:

  • Reinstatement.
  • Back pay.
  • Compensatory damages for emotional distress.
  • Punitive damages (in some cases).
  • Attorneys’ fees and costs.

If you believe you are facing workplace discrimination and retaliation, contact our experienced Los Angeles County employment law attorneys today to discuss your unique circumstances. Our employment law firm and bilingual staff offer services in both English and Spanish and are available to discuss your case by calling (626)-396-9900 or contacting us online.

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You’re in a bad spot. We will help. Not every situation can turn into a case, but if anyone can pull it off…we can.

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