Retaliation Claims Valid Where Employees Have A Reasonable Belief That Discrimination Occurred

Along with the many various types of employment discrimination claims that exist – such as sex discrimination, religious discrimination, and age discrimination, Title VII and the other discrimination laws also prohibit retaliation by your employer against employees for complaining about discrimination in the workplace. This is necessary in order to ensure that workers don’t fear speaking up and complaining about violations. If the court determines that you have experienced retaliation in the workplace, you are entitled to the same remedies as you have in any other discrimination case. But it is important to understand that retaliation does not mean any type of retaliatory conduct by your employer. Retaliation means that you complained about discriminatory conduct in the workplace–either discrimination directed at you or someone else in the workplace — and you suffer negative employment consequences as a result.

Further as a recent case demonstrates, retaliation claims are not limited to situations where the actual discrimination complained of occurs. Retaliation claims may also include situations where you reasonably believe that your employer is engaging in discriminatory conduct and you complain about that discrimination. In those situations, if your employer takes negative actions against you after you raise concerns about what you think is improper discrimination (even if it isn’t) you may still have a claim for retaliation.

In the recent case, Bowum-Debolt v. Office of the District Attorney, two females employees reasonably believed that not providing a breast-feeding location to female employees was discriminatory under Title VII. After they complained that their employer – the District Attorneys office – was discriminating against female employees by not providing an appropriate location to breast-feed or pump, the D.A.’s office allegedly responded by ridiculing the plaintiffs and stating that one of the women “must not have enough work to do.”

A few months later, the women also complained that their supervisor improperly used her position of authority to coerce a Hispanic employee, her family and the widow of a Hispanic murder victim, to clean the supervisor’s home. The women were almost immediately suspended and then were fired.

The court noted “Even if the failure to provide breast feeding accommodations does not violate Title VII, it does not necessarily follow that as a matter of law, (the women) did not have a reasonable good-faith belief that defendants’ conduct was discriminatory,” The judge explained, “The standard has subjective and objective components, i.e. that [the women] subjectively believed that practice was unlawful and that the belief was objectively reasonable in light of the facts and record presented.” As a result, “Accepting plaintiffs’ factual allegations as true, they plausibly give rise to a claim.” Thus, the women could proceed with their claim of retaliation.

If you believe that you may have been suffered retaliation as the result of your complaining about perceived workplace discrimination, its important to contact an experienced Georgia retaliation attorney at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP right away to discuss your options.