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What are protected characteristics?

Characteristics that are protected under the law against discrimination include race, color, national origin, disability status, veteran status, marital status, HIV status, or religion. People who are reprimanded, demoted, or fired because of these characteristics may be entitled to compensatory damages such as back pay, front pay, punitive damages, and or compensatory damages.

If you feel you have been treated unjustly in the workplace, the Orlando employment law attorneys at Burruezo & Burruezo, PLLC can help. Call us today at (407) 754-2904 to schedule a free consultation or contact us online.


The law is pretty clear in terms of what the violations would be. It’s pretty simple. The law simply says you can’t discriminate against someone on the basis of their race, color, religion, national origin, disability status, handicap status, marital status, veteran status, HIV status. There are a number of things called protected characteristics. All the things I just mentioned are protected characteristics. The law says you can’t treat people differently on the basis of any of those characteristics.

If you think about it, we all fall into one of those things. We’re all male or female, of a certain religion, of a certain color, and the law simply says an employer can’t treat you differently on any of these bases. What we see is people who are reprimanded or people who lose their jobs, or people who are demoted, who we find through our investigation and our research that it’s been done because of that. In other words, people not like them, who aren’t treated in the same way.

That would be a violation of the law.

In terms of damages, the kinds of things you could recover in a discrimination lawsuit, the law provides for the recovery of certain things. Basically four major components of recovery. One would be back pay. That would be the amount of money you would have earned through the date of trial had you remained employed, in the case of a former employee. For example, if someone loses their job on January the 1st of 2014 and the case goes to trial a year later, the back pay award would be a year’s worth of pay that they would have earned had they remained employed.

Another component of damages would be what’s called front pay; that is, money into the future. In most cases it’s an amount equal to one to three to four years of pay depending on the length of employment, depending on the kind of job they had. Front pay would be an available remedy available to them. Another available remedy would be compensatory damages. That would be pain and suffering, the kinds of things that you would feel emotionally for having suffered discrimination in the workplace. That has some value, and the courts would, or the jury would in some instances, determine what the value of that is.

In the case of willful violations where you have an employee who’s acted with reckless indifference to the rights of the employees, you have the ability to recover also punitive damages, money and punishment for having acted wrongfully in the workplace.

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