A recent case evaluated whether alleged comments by a white human resources manager could be used as evidence to support a claim for retaliation. In Willis v. Cleco Corp., a black worker – Gregory Willis – filed a race discrimination and retaliation claim based on his alleged termination as the result – in part – of his complaining about a racially hostile conversation between a co-worker and a supervisor. Shortly after Willis reported the offensive conversation to senior officials at the company, he received a disciplinary warning. The warning was based on his sending a mass email containing information concerning the health of a co-workers son. Willis was subsequently fired. Willis then filed a claim for employment discrimination and retaliation pursuant to Title VII.
A retaliation claim may be filed where you complain about discriminatory conduct in the workplace–either discrimination directed at you or someone else in the workplace, and you are retaliated against as a result. Retaliation doesn’t only mean that you were discharged for making a complaint. It includes almost any negative action by your employer against you (or even against a family member or friend) in response to your complaint about discrimination.
If you believe that you have may have suffered employment discrimination, it’s a good idea to consult with a skilled Georgia discrimination attorney right away. A knowledgeable discrimination lawyer can provide you crucial advice concerning your next steps.
Many times in retaliation and discrimination cases, the employer will offer an “excuse” for their discriminatory actions to avoid liability. In legal terms the excuse is called “pretext” and is generally defined as the reason that has been offered as an excuse for a particular employment action – such as a termination – which is false and is intended to cover up the real discriminatory reason.
In this instance, an affidavit in support of the discrimination lawsuit provided that Willis’ supervisor had stated that he was “very pissed” with Willis for reporting the conversation with and that, “If we have to find a reason, [we] have decided; we are going to terminate that n****r Greg Willis for reporting me and trying to burn my a**.”
The U.S. Court of Appeals determined that a jury could determined that if true, Willis was disciplined for retaliatory reasons and that such statement was sufficient proof of pretext to show unlawful retaliation.
As such the man was able to maintain his claim for retaliation. Such decision is an important victory for workers right and underscores the importance of protecting the right of workers’ to complain about discrimination without the fear of retribution.
For more information or if you believe that you have suffered employment discrimination – or have been retaliated against – for complaining about discrimination we urge you to consult with the dedicated Georgia employee’s rights lawyers at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for an immediate case evaluation.