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Are Employees Protected From Retaliation When Threating To File An EEOC Complaint?

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For more than twenty years, our Marion County, Florida unlawful retaliation attorneys have fought for the rights of workplace retaliation victims. Having represented workplace retaliation victims for decades, our Ocala, Florida unlawful retaliation lawyers know that a common employment law myth is that employees are not protected from retaliation when threatening to file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Because of this employment law myth, many employees mistakenly believe that they are not protected from retaliation until they actually file a complaint with the EEOC alleging workplace discrimination. In this article, our Marion County, Florida unlawful retaliation attorneys explain how the recent decision in LeMarbe v. Village of Milford, Case No. 19-12992 (E.D. Mich. Oct. 26, 2021) illustrates that federal employment discrimination law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who threaten to file a complaint with the EEOC.

Employee Protection From Retaliation

The federal employment discrimination laws, including VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), contain anti-retaliation provisions. Under the anti-retaliation provisions of the federal employment discrimination laws, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who complain about perceived workplace discrimination. Employees are protected from retaliation when they make an internal complaint of workplace discrimination and when they make a complaint of workplace discrimination with the EEOC.

Unlawful Retaliation Lawsuit

In LeMarbe,  a man named LeMarbe brought an unlawful retaliation case against his former employer, the Village of Milford, Michigan (Milford), pursuant to the ADA. LeMarbe contends that he was fired in retaliation for threatening to file a complaint with the EEOC alleging that Milford had discriminated against him on the basis of disability.

LeMarbe claims that he has a disability within the meaning of the ADA based on his health condition of essential tremors. LeMarbe alleges that his hand tremors are so severe that they preclude him from eating food, such as cereal, soup, rice, and salad, requiring “precision maneuvers” of utensils with his hands to consume, prevent him from butting a shirt, and render him unable to write because his hands shake so badly.

In 2015, LeMarbe was hired to work in Milford’s Maintenance Department. From October 2015 through September 2018, LeMarbe worked in the Maintenance Department where he received favorable evaluations and had no disciplinary record. In September 2018, LeMarbe was reassigned to work in the Wastewater Department. According to LeMarbe, his supervisor, a man named Calley, told him that he needed LeMarbe to work in the Wastewater Department “for a couple of weeks” so that Calley could train new employees.

In early October 2018, LeMarbe asked Calley to transfer him back to the Maintenance Department. Calley responded, “I’ll get you out of there as soon as possible.” Over the next several months, LeMarbe repeatedly asked to be reassigned to the Maintenance Department. LeMarbe made all of those requests because he knew that eventually he would be required to work in the Wastewater Department lab, and he anticipated that his tremors would prevent him from performing the duties that would be assigned there.

Threat To File Charges With EEOC

After several months of performing duties in the Wastewater Department, LeMarbe was assigned in early 2019 to work in the Wastewater Department lab. LeMarbe had difficulties performing the lab work due to his tremors. In February 2019, shortly after the lab assignment began, LeMarbe met with management, including Calley, about the problems his tremors were causing him with his new assignment in the lab. LeMarbe told management that he was unable to do the work expected in the lab due to his tremors and that he wanted to be transferred back to the Maintenance Department as promised. Calley told LeMarbe that there was “no job available” in the Maintenance Department for LeMarbe to be reassigned.

On February 21, 2019, another supervisor, a man named Harder, told LeMarbe that he had been instructed to “write him up” for “inability to do his job” in the lab “because of your hands.” LeMarbe responded by telling Harder that he would “file charges with the EEOC.” On February 22, 2019, LeMarbe was informed that he was being placed on administrative leave and was sent home. On March 20, 2019, while LeMarbe was still on administrative leave, Milford told LeMarbe that his employment was being terminated for threatening or intimidating conduct towards co-workers.

Employee Protected From Retaliation

Milford filed a motion with the trial court seeking dismissal of LeMarbe’s retaliation claim. In doing so, Milford argued that the ADA did not protect LeMarbe from retaliation for simply threatening to file an EEOC charge. The trial court denied Milford’s motion for dismissal and ruled that LeMarbe had presented sufficient evidence to establish that he was fired in retaliation for threatening to file an EEOC charge.

At the outset of its opinion, the trial court determined that LeMarbe was protected from retaliation under the ADA for threatening to file a complaint with the EEOC. Having found that LeMarbe was protected from retaliation for threatening to file an EEOC charge, the trial court focused on the “suspicious timing” between his threat to file an EEOC charge and his termination. The trial court pointed out that LeMarbe was placed on administrative leave the day after he threatened to file an EEOC complaint. Then, while LeMarbe was still on administrative leave, Milford fired LeMarbe about one month later. The “suspicious timing,” the trial court reasoned, was sufficient “to support the inference” that LeMarbe was fired in retaliation for threatening to file an EEOC charge.

Free Consultation For Retaliation Victims

One of the most important decisions workplace retaliation victims must make is which employment law firm to contact for legal advice regarding their legal rights. As part of our commitment to protecting and vindicating the rights of workplace retaliation victims, an experienced employment law attorney will speak with you personally and you will receive the individualized attention your case deserves. We offer free confidential case evaluations for employees, and you will not have to pay to speak with our employment law attorneys regarding your employee rights. We are available for consultation at your convenience, including scheduling telephone consultations for evenings and weekends.

Ocala, FL Unlawful Retaliation Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida, and representing workers throughout Florida, our unlawful retaliation attorneys in Marion County, Florida have litigated workplace retaliation cases in Florida courts for more than twenty years. If you have retaliated against for exercising your employee rights or have questions about your protection from retaliation for threatening to file a workplace discrimination complaint with the EEOC, please contact our office for a free consultation with our unlawful retaliation lawyers in Marion County, Florida. Our employee rights law firm takes unlawful retaliation cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.

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