A Claim For Retaliation May Exist Where A Friend Is Fired

February 16, 2014

While most people are aware that it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of sex, race or religion, many people do not realize that it is also against the law to retaliate against someone who makes such claims. This is true even if a court doesn’t find that discrimination occurred. If you are subjected to negative employment action as the result of your complaints of work place discrimination, you may be able to sustain a claim for retaliation.

In fact, it may be easier to bring a successful retaliation lawsuit in certain circumstances than it is to prove discrimination. This is precisely because in order to make employment laws effective, employees can’t be afraid to come forward when discrimination occurs.

If you have questions about retaliation or any form of employment discrimination, it is a good idea to consult with a top Atlanta employment discrimination attorney right away. Retaliation means that you complained 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 mean simply that you were discharged for making a complaint. It means almost any negative action by your employer against you (or even against a family member or friend) in response to your complaint about discrimination, or for participating as a witness in someone else's discrimination case. The U.S. Supreme Court has recently defined retaliation quite broadly, to include any conduct by an employer that would tend to deter reasonable people from pursuing their rights.

A recent case looked at whether an employee who was terminated because of her friendship with former employee who claimed unlawful harassment could bring a claim for retaliation. In the sexual harassment lawsuit, EEOC v. Fred Fuller Oil Co., the court reviewed whether the relationship between two friends could support a claim for retaliation. In this instance one friend quit after she was subjected to numerous sexual overtures at work. She later filed a criminal charge against the assailant, However, she also remained friends with a co-worker. When the alleged harasser realized that the two were still hanging out together, the co-worker was fired.

Previous case law by the U.S. Supreme Court has determined that Title VII might protect an employee who was fired three weeks after his fiancée filed a complaint of harassment against their employer noting that such a relationship may be close enough to bring a claim of retaliation. Here, the court explained, the relationship between the two women “exists somewhere in the fact-specific gray area between close friend and casual acquaintance.” As a result, the court determined that a jury should decide whether the friend was fired based on her friendship.

For more information about retaliation, or if you believe you may have suffered any type of employment discrimination, please contact the dedicated Georgia employment discrimination lawyers at The Buckley Law Firm LLC for an immediate consultation.