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Pasadena Employment Lawyers

What Is the Difference Between Harassment and Discrimination?


There are several key differences between workplace harassment and employment discrimination. Understanding the differences can help you identify which unlawful workplace practice you’re a victim of and allow you to take the correct action against your employer.

Discrimination occurs when an employer takes an adverse action against you because of a protected characteristic like gender or race. On the other hand, harassment occurs when a hostile workplace environment is created by inappropriate speech, behavior, or sexual advances.

Determining whether you’re experiencing harassment or discrimination at your place of work can help you seek justice, but it can be difficult to do so. Reach out to the California harassment and employment discrimination lawyers at Domb & Rauchwerger to learn more and take action against your employer. 

Differentiating Between Workplace Harassment and Employment Discrimination

To understand the difference between harassment and discrimination, you’ll want to learn more about the two terms and the laws protecting workers from unlawful workplace practices. Let’s take a closer look at both terms:


Workplace discrimination involves your employer taking what’s known as an “adverse action” against you. Adverse actions include, but aren’t limited to, the following:

  • Failure to hire
  • Failure to promote
  • Demotion
  • Reducing pay
  • Taking away certain responsibilities from your job description
  • Giving you a poor performance review

An adverse action is any action that negatively impacts the terms and/or conditions of your employment. However, just because your employer takes such an action against you does not mean that you’ve been discriminated against.

The adverse action must have been motivated by a protected characteristic like the color of your skin or your religious beliefs to qualify as discrimination. According to California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), the following categories are protected from discriminatory adverse actions:

  • Race
  • Skin color
  • National origin
  • Age, if over 40
  • Gender
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Marital status
  • Pregnancy status
  • Religion
  • Disability 
  • Genetic information

If an employer has taken adverse action against you due to one of the categories listed above, you’ve been discriminated against. To find out for certain whether you’re a victim of unlawful workplace practices, contact an employment discrimination lawyer. They can further explain the difference between harassment and discrimination and help you file a claim. 


Harassment and discrimination are similar in that they both require a person being targeted because of one of the protected categories discussed above that are protected by the Fair Employment and Housing Act.  

However, harassment differs from discrimination in that it does not involve an adverse employment action. Instead, workplace harassment typically involves either verbal, physical, or visual harassment, such as demeaning comments, unwanted touching, offensive drawings, etc. 

While a few rude comments might not count as harassment in the eyes of the law, it can become a legal issue depending on the severity or frequency of the conduct.  When a court hears a workplace harassment case, they’ll look for the following factors to determine if the harassment that took place was significant enough to create a hostile work environment:

  • If the harassment interfered with your job performance
  • If the harassment occurred on a consistent basis
  • How bad the harassment was
  • If a reasonable person would view your situation as a hostile workplace environment
  • If you genuinely felt that you were working in a hostile environment

For a free legal consultation, call (213) 772-5882.

Compensation You Could Receive from a Harassment or Discrimination Claim

Differentiating between harassment and discrimination is important because doing so can help you determine what kind of legal action you should take. Knowing how to proceed can help you get access to the financial remedies you need to replace monetary losses and deal with the situation that unlawful workplace treatment has resulted in.

Fortunately, an experienced attorney can help you determine whether you’re a victim of harassment or discrimination if you’re still unsure. Then, they can begin the legal process and pursue the following damages and recourse on your behalf:

  • Lost income
  • Lost benefits
  • Medical expenses
  • Loss of future job opportunities
  • Employer must create a discrimination or harassment-prevention program
  • Job search expenses
  • Emotional distress
  • Attorney’s fees
  • Punitive damages, in some cases

We Have What It Takes to Combat the Discrimination or Harassment You’ve Experienced

Whether you’re a victim of harassment or discrimination, the team at Domb & Rauchwerger has the experience and legal knowledge necessary to assist in your financial recovery. Zack Domb and Devin Rauchwerger were both partners at an employment defense firm that protected Fortune 500 employers from a myriad of claims from workers like yourself.

During their time spent combating harassment and discrimination claims, they learned how employment defense attorneys operate. Now, they’re able to use their insider knowledge to take on even the largest employers and fight for the compensatory damages you’re owed.

To learn more about the difference between workplace harassment and discrimination, contact us today. We’ll schedule a free consultation between you and a seasoned attorney, so you can learn more about your legal options. If we agree to help with your case, we’ll handle every aspect of your case and do everything we can to maximize your compensation. 

Call or text (213) 772-5882 or complete a Free Case Evaluation form.

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