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Employment Law Blog
James Tarquin, P.A
As part of our commitment to assist and educate employees in fighting back against the abusive employment practices of employers, we offer a broad range of information about employment law issues in our employment blog.

Are Employees Protected From Retaliation When Participating In An Investigation Into Another Worker’s EEOC Complaint?

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For more than twenty years, our Marion County, Florida workplace retaliation lawyers have represented Florida employees who have been retaliated against for exercising their employee rights. Through their decades of experience representing retaliation victims, our Ocala, Florida workplace retaliation attorneys know that because of justified fears of retaliation, employees are often reluctant to make statements regarding their knowledge about discrimination in the workplace when being interviewed during an employer’s internal investigation into allegations of workplace discrimination. In this article, our Marion County, Florida workplace retaliation lawyers explain how federal employment discrimination law protects employees from retaliation when they participate in an employer’s internal investigation into allegations of unlawful discrimination in the workplace.

Protection From Workplace Retaliation

When an employee files a complaint against an employer with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging unlawful discrimination, federal employment discrimination law prohibits the employer from retaliating against the employee for filing the EEOC discrimination complaint. If the employer conducts an internal investigation into the employee’s pending EEOC discrimination complaint, federal employment discrimination law also protects the employee’s participation in the employer’s internal investigation into the allegations of unlawful discrimination. Thus, the employer is forbidden from retaliating against the employee because of statements made during the internal investigation, including allegations of unlawful discrimination made during the internal investigation.

Generally, when an employer conducts an internal investigation into an employee’s pending EEOC discrimination complaint, the employer will also interview or otherwise elicit information from other employees during the course of the internal investigation. As with the employee who filed the EEOC discrimination complaint, federal employment discrimination law protects other employees who participate in the employer’s internal investigation into the allegations of unlawful discrimination. Thus, the employer is also prohibited from retaliating against other employees because of statements made during the internal investigation, including statements confirming the existence of unlawful discrimination in the workplace. In other words, when an employee supports another employee’s pending EEOC discrimination complaint during the course of an internal investigation, the employer is prohibited from retaliating against the employee because of that support.

In this article, our Marion County, Florida workplace retaliation lawyers explain how the decision by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Abbott v. Crown Motor Co., 348 F.3d 537 (6th Cir. 2003) illustrates that federal employment discrimination law protects employees from retaliation when they participate in an employer’s internal investigation into another employee’s pending EEOC complaint.

Retaliatory Termination Lawsuit

In that case, a man named Abbott brought a retaliation lawsuit against his former employer, Crown Motor Company, Inc., pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). Under Title VII, employees are protected from retaliation when they complain of perceived racial discrimination in the workplace. Title VII also protects employees from retaliation when they participate in an employer’s internal investigation into their own pending EEOC discrimination complaint or another employee’s pending EEOC discrimination complaint.

Abbott, who is white, was employed by Crown as an automotive technician. During Abbott’s employment, Crown hired a man named Crump, who is African-American, as an automobile detailer. While employed by Crown, Crump filed a complaint of discrimination against Crown with the EEOC. In his EEOC discrimination complaint, Crump claimed that he was subjected to racially harassing behavior, including racial slurs and racial jokes.

About one week after receiving a copy of Crump’s EEOC discrimination complaint, Crown’s Parts Service Director, Morrison, held a meeting at which he announced that allegations of race discrimination had been made against the company and asked any witnesses to come forward. In response, Abbott told Morrison that he witnessed an employee using racial slurs against Crump and that he would testify in a court of law in support of Crump’s race discrimination complaint against Crown.

Some eleven months later, Crown fired Abbott. Abbott claims that he was fired in retaliation for having come forward to support Crump’s EEOC discrimination complaint. In support of his retaliatory discharge claim, Abbott pointed to testimony from Crump that Morrison told him that he (Morrison) would “get back at those who had supported the charge of discrimination against [ ] Crown.”

Evidence Of Retaliatory Termination

The trial court dismissed Abbott’s retaliatory discharge claim. On appeal, the Sixth Circuit reversed the trial court’s dismissal and reinstated Abbott’s retaliatory discharge claim. The threshold issue on appeal was whether Title VII protected Abbott from retaliation when he participated in Crown’s internal investigation into Crump’s pending EEOC discrimination complaint. An issue, the Sixth Circuit explained, that it “has not directly addressed.”

The Sixth Circuit held that “Title VII protects an employee’s participation in an employer’s internal investigation into allegations of unlawful discrimination where that investigation occurs pursuant to a pending EEOC charge.” Because Abbott participated in Crown’s internal investigation into Crump’s pending EEOC discrimination complaint by notifying Morrison that he had witnessed racial harassment against Crump and would testify to it in a court of law, the Sixth Circuit found that Abbott was protected from retaliation by Title VII.

Having found that Crown was prohibited from retaliating against Abbott because of his participation in Crown’s internal investigation into Crump’s pending EEOC discrimination complaint, the Sixth Circuit also found that Abbott had presented sufficient evidence to establish that he was unlawfully fired in retaliation for supporting Crump’s EEOC discrimination complaint during Crown’s internal investigation. In support of its finding, the court of appeals pointed to Morrison’s comment that he would “get back at those who had supported the charge of discrimination against [ ] Crown.” This piece of evidence, the Sixth Circuit reasoned, was sufficient to enable a jury to reasonably conclude that Abbott was the victim of an unlawful retaliatory discharge in violation of Title VII.

Free Consultation For Retaliation Victims

One of the most important decisions workplace retaliation victims must make is deciding which employment attorneys to consult with regarding their legal rights. At our employee rights law firm, an experienced employment lawyer will speak with you personally and you will receive the individualized attention your case deserves. We offer free confidential case evaluations and you will never have to pay to speak with our employment attorneys regarding your workplace issues.

Ocala, FL Workplace Retaliation Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, our Marion County, Florida workplace retaliation attorneys have fought for the rights of employees for more than two decades. If you have been retaliated against for exercising your employee rights or have questions about your protection from retaliation when participating in an employer’s internal investigation into allegations of workplace discrimination, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Ocala, Florida workplace retaliation lawyers.

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