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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.

Employee Fired Because Of Discrimination Complaint EEOC Retaliation Lawsuit Charges

Young female character fired from the office, economic crisis caused by Covid-19 pandemic, unemployment, exit sign, sexism at work

Having litigated retaliation cases in Florida courts for more than twenty years, our Inverness, Florida retaliation attorneys know that many employers require or authorize their employees to make discrimination complaints to a third-party. Under such circumstances, the third-party is generally responsible for relaying employees’ discrimination complaints to the employer. Unfortunately, some employees mistakenly believe they are not protected from retaliation when they make a discrimination complaint to a third-party as required or authorized by their employer. In this article, our Inverness, Florida retaliation lawyers explain how a recent retaliation lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) demonstrates that federal law protects employees from retaliation when they lodge a discrimination complaint with a third-party as required or authorized by their employer.

Retaliatory Discharge Lawsuit

On May 12, 2021, the EEOC issued a press release announcing that it has entered into a Consent Decree settling a retaliation lawsuit against USAble Life (USAL). On November 27, 2019, the EEOC filed the retaliation case, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. USAble Life, Case No. 4:19-cv-00846, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas. In the Consent Decree, which was executed by U.S. District Court Judge Brian S. Miller on May 11, 2021, USAL agreed to pay $90,000 to resolve the retaliation lawsuit.

Legal Protection Against Retaliation

The EEOC brought the retaliation lawsuit pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA), on behalf of a former employer USAL, Christin DeClue (DeClue). Under Title VII, as amended by the PDA, employers are forbidden from discriminating against employees on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. In order to protect employee rights, Title VII, as amended by the PDA, contains an anti-retaliation provision which prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who complain about perceived pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. When an employer terminates an employee because she lodged a pregnancy discrimination complaint, the employee has been subjected to retaliatory discharge in violation of Title VII, as amended by the PDA. The EEOC claims that USAL violated Title VII, as amended by the PDA, by terminating DeClue’s employment because of her complaint of pregnancy discrimination to a third-party.

Employee Alleges Retaliatory Discharge

USAL is an insurance company based in Little Rock, Arkansas. Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) owns 40% of USAL. USAL services BCBS plans across the country, and its business focus is providing specialty insurance programs to BCBS’s health insurance programs.

In September 2015, DeClue started working for USAL as a customer service associate. During her employment, DeClue became pregnant and notified USAL that she had an expected delivery date of January 16, 2018. Exercising her employee rights, DeClue requested leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and short-term disability leave due to the birth of her child. DeClue’s short-term disability leave was scheduled to end on February 26, 2018. DeClue’s FMLA leave was scheduled to end on April 9, 2018.

Because USAL demanded that DeClue return to work by February 26, 2018, DeClue’s doctor submitted a leave request for her through March 7, 2018. DeClue’s doctor then submitted another leave request for her through March 20, 2018 because of DeClue’s pregnancy-related medical condition and post-partem depression. USAL ultimately granted DeClue’s request for an extension of leave through March 20, 2018.

Discrimination Complaint To Third-Party

On March 16, 2018, while she was on pregnancy-related medical leave, DeClue interviewed for promotion with respect to two positions. USAL did not select DeClue for promotion to either position. The EEOC alleges that USAL failed to promote DeClue because she was a lactating mother and would need breaks to pump milk. On March 26, 2018, DeClue complained to a USAL vice president regarding her belief that she had been discriminated against because of the medical reasons for her leave of absence and because of her need to take breaks to pump milk. The vice president instructed DeClue to speak with a manager of employee relations.

On March 27, 2018, DeClue contacted the manager of employee relations regarding her concerns. The manager of employee relations simply informed DeClue that she had unused FMLA leave. Based on her belief that USAL had not properly resolved her concerns, DeClue called the BCBS hotline number on April 3, 2018, alleging that USAL had discriminated against her on the basis of pregnancy. The BCBS hotline number was posted in USAL’s employee breakroom. On April 11, 2018, USAL fired DeClue. The EEOC contends that DeClue was fired in retaliation for lodging a pregnancy discrimination complaint with BCBS against USAL.

Fighting For Retaliation Victims

The EEOC is the administrative agency of the United States with the obligation under federal law for interpreting and enforcing the federal employment laws prohibiting discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. In order to fulfill its statutory mandate of eliminating unlawful employment practices from the American workplace, the EEOC brings lawsuits in federal court on behalf of employment discrimination victims, including retaliatory discharge victims.

In a press release issued by the EEOC on May 12, 2021 regarding the case, the Acting Director for the EEOC’s Memphis District Office, Edmond Sims, explained that “in fiscal year 2020, retaliation charges represented 55.8% of all charges filed—for many years it’s been the most common type of discrimination charge.” “Indeed,” Mr. Sims added, “that number demonstrates that employers have much to do in the workplace to protect employees’ right to complain about discrimination.”

Inverness, FL Retaliation Attorneys

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, our Citrus County, Florida retaliation lawyers have fought for the rights of retaliation victims in Florida courts for more than twenty years. If you have been fired in retaliation for complaining about discrimination in the workplace or have questions about your protection from retaliation under the federal anti-discrimination laws, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Inverness, Florida retaliation attorneys. Our employment and labor law attorneys take 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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