The Eighth Circuit decided an employment discrimination case earlier this month brought by an employee of a railroad carrier. Apparently, the plaintiff in this case had a significant history of good work performance, but at some point he violated a serious safety rule. He agreed to a 30-day suspension and a period of probation. At some point during his probation, the plaintiff was viewed walking in the tracks, which is another serious safety violation.
The supervisors who witnessed the above violation began an investigation. A hearing was held, and it was decided that the plaintiff would be terminated from his position. The plaintiff believes that his termination was based on the fact that he made two previous complaints and not because of the alleged rule violation. The lower court ruled in favor of the employer, and the Eighth Circuit agreed, finding that there was no unlawful retaliation and the plaintiff would have been discharged even without the rule violation.
What is Retaliation?
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) explains that employers cannot harass, terminate, or demote an employee or retaliate against him or her for filing a claim for discrimination, participating in a discrimination proceeding, or other similar activities. Generally, a retaliation suit is brought when an employer participates in an adverse action against a qualified employee because he or she engaged in a constitutionally protected activity.
What is Considered Adverse Action? Who is Covered? and for What?
Some examples of retaliation include the refusal to promote or hire an individual based on his or her actions. Moreover, terminating an individual based on his or her protected activity is also encompassed in adverse action. Also, if an individual is verbally or physically threatened because of his or her actions, this will almost certainly be considered an adverse action.
Individuals who are covered are those who are opposing discriminatory practices, such as discrimination based on color, sex, religion, national origin, age, or disability. However, it is important to note that if someone underwent some other negative workplace situation not related to discriminatory practices, he or she will not be able to bring a claim under this statute.
In order to succeed on a claim of this nature, the plaintiff must establish that he or she was engaging in “protected activity.” Some examples of protected activity include complaining about discrimination, threatening to file a claim for discrimination, or refusing to participate in discriminatory behavior.
Have You Been a Victim of Workplace Retaliation?
If you or someone you know has been a victim of workplace retaliation, you may be entitled to a series of benefits, including reinstatement, back pay, retroactive pay, and in some situations punitive damages if the employer acted in a particularly egregious manner. These types of cases are often complicated and involve a great deal of investigation and preparation. It is greatly beneficial to have an attorney assist you. Please contact one of our experienced and diligent attorneys at 502-583-2300 to set up an initial free consultation.
Seventh Circuit Overturns Lower Court Ruling on Indiana Title VII Prison Case, Kentucky Employment Lawyer Blog, August 8, 2014.
EEOC Equal-Pay Case Dismissed for Lack of Specific Information Regarding Pay Discrepancies, Kentucky Employment Lawyer Blog, October 13, 2014