The Fourth Circuit cautions employees (and their counsel) that taking actions to support an EEOC charge are not "protected activities" under the "participation" clause of Title VII's anti-retaliation section if they violate state law. Here, the court affirms summary judgment in a case where the employee copied and delivered confidential personnel files to the EEOC, in violation of North Carolina law.
In a contentious 2-1 opinion, the Eighth Circuit holds that a job applicant who requests a religious accommodation - here, not to work Saturdays - is not engaged in a "protected activity" under the opposition clause of Title VII's retaliation provision.
In a short-but-sweet opinion, the Seventh Circuit reverses summary judgment in a Title VII retaliation case, where the district court failed to perceive a genuine dispute of material fact: specifically, when company management first became aware of the plaintiff's alleged violation of work rules. By the plaintiff's account, management knowingly overlooked her alleged breach .... until she complained about sex harassment.
There have been various cases that have addressed whether human-resource professionals may benefit from the anti-retaliation provisions of federal employment law when they are fired for investigating or pursuing an EEO claim, as part of their duties. In this fascinating case, the Eleventh Circuit (dividing 2-1) holds that an HR manager who the company believed "encouraged or even solicited" an employee to sue her employer was protected by Title VII.
Here's a valuable case for employees suffering harassment (and lawyers who bring such cases). The First Circuit reverses summary judgment for age-based and retaliatory hostile work environment, holding that the district court put the plaintiff to an impossible standard of specificity to prove individual incidents of harassment. It also holds that repeated threats of termination can constitute constructive discharge.
Two opinions this week highlight the power of retaliation claims: in each case, the principal discrimination claim failed on summary judgment, yet the retaliation claim was remanded for trial.
The Fourth Circuit reverses summary judgment in a Title VII retaliation case, where the plaintiff's direct boss allegedly declared that she "wanted someone of a different race" in the job, then proceeded to subject her to "constant surveillance, badgering, and criticism." When the plaintiff "told the City that she intended to file a formal grievance" about the hostile work environment, the defendant fired the plaintiff the very next day.
There are several lessons in this Seventh Circuit decision, reviewing a summary judgment and jury verdict in a Title VII and § 1983 case involving state university police officers. First, the court continues to consider the use of the N-word in the workplace to be virtually per se racial harassment. Second, the filing of false reports against an employee may be deemed a materially adverse action, for purposes of retaliation. Third, even if the law mandates strict liability against an employer for retaliation by a supervisor, the jury must still be instructed on the theory or it may be waived.