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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

Employer Allegedly Gave Employee A Choice: Drop The Racial Discrimination Claim Or Be Fired

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The federal employment discrimination laws prohibit employers from retaliating against employees for opposing any practice made an unlawful employment practice under the federal employment discrimination laws.  Employees are protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) from retaliation for complaining about race, national origin, sex, or pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.  The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) forbids employers from retaliating against employees for complaining about age discrimination in the workplace.  Employers are prohibited by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) from retaliating against employees for complaining about disability discrimination in the workplace.   

The federal employment discrimination laws also protect employees from retaliation when they file a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claiming unlawful discrimination.  The EEOC is the federal governmental agency responsible for enforcing Title VII, the ADEA, and the ADA.  As explained by the U.S. Supreme Court in Robinson v. Shell Oil Co., 519 U.S. 337 (1997), employees are protected from retaliation when they filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC to ensure they have “unfettered access to statutory remedial mechanisms” of the federal employment discrimination laws.    

Having been in the trenches fighting for the rights of retaliation victims for almost twenty years, our Marion County, Florida employment retaliation attorneys have learned that employers often exert pressure on employees to withdraw charges of discrimination filed with the EEOC.   Usually, employers promise employees some type of job benefit, such as an increase in pay, an increase in hours, or a promotion, in exchange for dropping charges of discrimination filed with the EEOC.  However, as the decision by the U.S. District of Columbia Court of Appeals in Ayissi-Etoh v. Fannie Mae, 712 F.3d 572 (D.C. Cir. 2013) illustrates, employers sometimes resort to explicit threats to bring about the desired withdrawal of an EEOC charge of discrimination.

Employee Subjected To Racial Comments & Retaliation

In that case, Placide Ayissi-Etoh (Ayissi-Etoh) brought an employment discrimination lawsuit pursuant to Title VII against his former employer, Fannie Mae, alleging race discrimination, racial harassment, and retaliation.  Ayissi-Etoh, who is African-American, was hired by Fannie Mae as a Senior Financial Modeler.  After working for Fannie Mae for about three months, Ayissi-Etoh applied for and received a promotion to Team Lead.  When Ayissi-Etoh asked a Fannie Mae manager why he was denied a salary increase despite the promotion, the manager, who is white, replied:  “For a young black man smart like you, we are happy to have your expertise; I think I’m already paying you a lot of money.”  A few months later, Ayissi-Etoh met with a Vice President to discuss why he was still performing staff work despite being promoted to Team Lead.  The meeting became heated and Ayissi-Etoh claimed that the Vice President used a highly offensive racial slur.

After these incidents, Ayissi-Etoh made a written complaint to Fannie Mae’s CEO and ethics department.  Ayissi-Etoh also filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC alleging racial discrimination.  After he filed his EEOC charge of discrimination, Ayissi-Etoh claimed that his supervisor gave him a choice:  drop the racial discrimination claim or be fired.  Three weeks after the alleged threat, Ayissi-Etoh was fired.

Giving The Employee A Choice Was Direct Evidence Of Retaliation

The trial court dismissed Ayissi-Etoh claims for racial discrimination, racial harassment, and retaliation.  On appeal, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s decision and reinstated Ayissi-Etoh’s case.  The appellate court found that the “young black man” comment was sufficient to warrant a jury trial on Ayissi-Etoh’s race discrimination claim because the comment constituted direct evidence of race discrimination.  The appellate court further found that the single use of a racial epithet was sufficiently severe to justify a jury trial on Ayissi-Etoh racial harassment claim.  The appellate court reasoned that “perhaps no single act can more quickly alter the conditions of employment than the use of an unambiguously racial epithet” by a supervisor against an employee.  Turning to Ayissi-Etoh’s retaliation claim, the appellate found that subjecting Ayissi-Etoh to a choice between dropping his charge of discrimination with the EEOC and being fired constituted direct evidence that Ayissi-Etoh was fired in retaliation for complaining about race discrimination.  Thus, the appellate court concluded, Ayissi-Etoh was also entitled to a jury trial on his retaliation claim. 

Free Consultation With Marion County Retaliation Attorneys   

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, we are dedicated to vindicating the rights of employees who have been retaliated against for opposing discrimination in the workplace.  If you have been retaliated against or have questions about an employer threatening you for complaining about discrimination, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Marion County, Florida employment retaliation lawyers.  Our employee rights law firm takes employment 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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