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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.

Can Employers Refuse To Rehire Former Employees Because Of A Prior Discrimination Complaint?

Sly young woman planning revenge

Having fought for the rights of employment discrimination victims for more than twenty years, our Marion County, Florida employment attorneys know that a common employment law myth is that employees lose their protection from retaliation once their employment relationship with an employer comes to an end. Because of this employment law myth, our Ocala, Florida employment lawyers have learned, many job applicants who are denied employment by a prior employer may be unaware their rights under federal employment discrimination law have been violated. In this article, our Marion County, Florida employment attorneys explain how the decision in Holassie v. District of Columbia,  Case No. 16-cv-2053 (D. D.C. Feb. 1, 2022) demonstrates that it is unlawful for an employer to refuse to hire a former employee because the former employee complained about workplace discrimination during his or her prior employment with the employer.

Legal Protection From Retaliation

The federal employment discrimination laws, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, all contain anti-retaliation provisions because, as explained by the U.S. Supreme Court in Crawford v. Metropolitan Gov. of Nashville & Davidson County,  555 U.S. 217 (2009), “fear of retaliation is the leading reason why people stay silent instead of voicing their concerns about bias and discrimination.” The anti-retaliation provisions of the federal employment discrimination laws protect employees from retaliation when they lodge an internal complaint with an employer about perceived discrimination in the workplace. For example, an employee who complains to management about perceived racial discrimination or sexual harassment in the workplace is protected from retaliation. The anti-retaliation provisions of the federal employment discrimination laws also protect employees from retaliation when they file a discrimination complaint against an employer with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). For example, an employee who files a complaint against an employer with the EEOC alleging sex discrimination or racial harassment is protected from retaliation.

Protection From Retaliation By Any Employer

In most retaliation cases, the retaliation at issue involves an employee’s present employer retaliating against the employee for complaining about workplace discrimination. For example, an employee’s present employer demotes or fires the employee in retaliation for complaining about pregnancy discrimination or age harassment. However, the protection afforded to employees from retaliation under the federal employment discrimination laws is not limited to retaliation from a present employer. Instead, employees, including job applicants, are protected from retaliation by any employer—a prior employer, present employer, or prospective employer—because they complained about perceived workplace discrimination.

The broad scope of protection from retaliation afforded to employees under the federal employment discrimination laws is triggered when a former employee seeks employment with a prior employer. If the former employee made a discrimination complaint against the prior employer, the prior employer (prospective employer) is prohibiting from retaliating against the former employee (job applicant) because of the prior discrimination complaint. For example, if the prior employee lodged an internal discrimination complaint during his or her prior employment with the prior employer, the prior employer (prospective employer) is forbidden from refusing to rehire the former employee (job applicant) because of the prior discrimination complaint. Likewise, if the prior employee made an EEOC complaint at any point in time against the prior employer, the prior employer (prospective employer) is forbidden from refusing to hire the former employee (job applicant) because of the prior EEOC complaint.

Unlawful Retaliation Lawsuit

In Holassie,a man named Holassie brought an unlawful retaliation lawsuit against his former employer, the District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), under Title VII. Holassie claims that DPR violated Title VII by refusing to rehire him because he filed a discrimination complaint with the EEOC during his prior employment with the DPR.

In 2012, Holassie began working for DPR as a summer lifeguard. On August 5, 2015, Holassie filed a complaint against DPR with the EEOC alleging discrimination. On August 23, 2015, DPR terminated Holassie’s employment. On April 24, 2016, Holassie applied to work as a summer 2016 DPR lifeguard. Holassie did not receive an offer and never returned to work for DPR. DPR claims that did not rehire Holassie because his lifeguard certification—which is a prerequisite for employment—had expired.

Evidence Of Unlawful Retaliation

DPR filed a motion with the trial court seeking dismissal of Holassie’s retaliation claim. The trial court denied DPR’s motion for dismissal and ruled that Holassie had presented sufficient evidence to establish that he was not rehired because of his prior EEOC discrimination complaint against DPR in violation of Title VII. In denying DPR’s motion for dismissal, the trial court found DPR’s assertion that it did not rehire Holassie because his lifeguard certification had expired “may have been pretextual.” The trial court explained that DPR officials “testified that candidates’ lack of certification did not preclude them from getting an interview.” In fact, the trial court noted, “DPR sometimes conducted job fairs where it interviewed non-certified applicants and then enrolled them in the certification, and Holassie testified that in prior years he had been hired before obtaining certification.” Thus, the trial court concluded that Holassie was entitled to proceed to a jury trial on his retaliation claim against his former and now prospective employer.

Employment Lawyers In Marion County, FL

Based in Ocala, Florida, and representing workers throughout Florida, our employment attorneys in Marion County, Florida have litigated retaliation cases in Florida courts for more than twenty years. If you have been subjected to retaliation for complaining about workplace discrimination or have questions about your protection from retaliation under federal employment discrimination law, please contact our office for a free consultation with our employment lawyers in Marion County, Florida. Our employee rights law firm takes workplace 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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