This Article takes a comprehensive look at retaliation and its place in discrimination law. The Article begins by examining current social science literature to understand how retaliation operates as a social practice to silence challenges to discrimination and preserve inequality. Then, using the recent controversy over whether to imply a private right of action for retaliation from a general ban on discrimination as a launching point, the Article theorizes the connections between retaliation and discrimination as legal constructs, and contends that retaliation should be viewed as a species of intentional discrimination. The Article argues that situating retaliation as a practice that is implicitly encompassed by a ban on discrimination pushes discrimination law in promising directions. Recognizing retaliation as a form of discrimination challenges the dominant anti-differentiation model of discrimination and promotes a broader conception of discrimination as the preservation of race and gender privilege. In addition, recognizing protection from retaliation as implicit in legal proscriptions on discrimination furthers the democratic underpinnings of discrimination law by adding content to the ideal of equal citizenship. Finally, the Article contends that an existing doctrinal constraint on the retaliation claim, the reasonable belief requirement, undermines the potentially progressive role that the retaliation claim can play in realizing its promise for discrimination law. The Article urges a reconsideration of this doctrine to bring the retaliation claim closer to the theory advanced here.
Civil Rights and Discrimination | Education Law | Labor and Employment Law | Law and Society | Public Law and Legal Theory
Date of this Version
Deborah L. Brake, "Retaliation" (August 2005). University of Pittsburgh School of Law Working Paper Series. Working Paper 23.