Is An Employer’s Failure To Respond To A Discrimination Complaint Evidence Of A Retaliatory Discharge?
For more than twenty years, our Marion County, Florida retaliatory termination lawyers have represented workers who have been retaliated against for exercising their employee rights. Through their decades of experience representing retaliation victims, our Ocala, Florida retaliatory termination attorneys know that employers frequently fail to take any action in response to workplace discrimination complaints. In far too many cases, employers never investigate workplace discrimination complaints and never communicate with employees about the status of their workplace discrimination complaints. In this article, our Marion County, Florida retaliatory termination attorneys explain how the decision in Satterwhite v. Coca-Cola Bottling Company United, Inc. Case No. 19-cv-00868 (N.D. Ala. Dec. 22, 2021) illustrates that evidence showing that an employer failed to take any action in response to an employee’s workplace discrimination complaint can be used to prove that the employer ultimately fired the employee in retaliation for lodging the workplace discrimination complaint.
Retaliatory Termination Lawsuit
In that case, an African-American woman named Satterwhite brought a retaliatory termination lawsuit against her former employer, Coca-Cola Bottling Company United, Inc. (Coke United), pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of race. In order to protect race discrimination victims, Title VII contains an anti-retaliation provision. Under Title VII, employees are protected from retaliation when they complain about perceived race discrimination in the workplace. Title VII protects employees from retaliation when they lodge an internal complaint of race discrimination and when they file a race discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Satterwhite claims that Coke United violated Title VII by terminating her employment because she complained about race discrimination.
Satterwhite began working for Coke United in October 2014, after about a decade with a predecessor Coke bottler. Satterwhite was a Business Development Manager. In this position, Satterwhite was responsible for visiting existing customers, investigating new customers, and dealing with customer issues. In October 2018, Satterwhite met with an Employee Relations Manager, a man named Trammell, where she complained to Trammell that she was being targeted by her supervisor, a woman named Jackson, for alleged performance problems because of her race and was being disciplined for the same things that her white co-workers were doing without being disciplined. In December 2018, Satterwhite filed a race discrimination complaint with the EEOC.
In January 2019, directly on the heels of her race discrimination complaints, Jackson subjected Satterwhite to a written warning for unacceptable job performance. In March 2019, Satterwhite then received a final written warning from Jackson because she missed a meeting. Satterwhite emailed Trammell and Jackson that day, complaining that she was being retaliated against because of her race discrimination complaints. Trammell forwarded the email to an HR Manager, who said: “Here we go.” Trammell told the HR Manager that he did not intend to respond to the complaint. In July 2019, Satterwhite was terminated. Coke United maintains that Satterwhite was fired for poor performance.
Evidence Of Retaliatory Termination
Coke United filed a motion with the trial court seeking dismissal of Satterwhite’s retaliatory termination claim. In moving for dismissal of the case, Coke United argued that the evidence established that Satterwhite was fired for a legitimate, non-retaliatory reason—poor performance—and not because she complained about race discrimination. The trial court denied Coke United’s motion for dismissal and ruled that Satterwhite was entitled to proceed to a jury trial on her retaliatory termination claim.
In denying Coke United’s motion for dismissal, the trial court focused on the Coke United’s failure to take any action in response to Satterwhite’s race discrimination complaints. The trial court observed that Trammell told the HR Manager that he did not intend to respond to Satterwhite’s complaint, and the HR Manager said “Here we go” after learning that Satterwhite had complained about race discrimination. The trial court found that “Trammell and the HR Manager’s responses to Satterwhite’s complaints could plausibly demonstrate frustration” with her race discrimination complaints and, therefore, “tend to show retaliatory animus.” In other words, the trial court reasoned, Coke United’s declaration that it would not take any action in response to Satterwhite’s race discrimination complaints was evidence of Coke United’s intent to retaliate against Satterwhite for complaining about race discrimination. This evidence of an intent to retaliate against Satterwhite for complaining about race discrimination, the trial court determined, “tended to show” that Satterwhite’s race discrimination complaints “were the true cause” of her termination.
Retaliatory Termination Attorneys In Ocala, FL
Based in Ocala, Florida and representing workers throughout Central Florida, our retaliatory termination lawyers in Marion County, Florida have litigated retaliation cases in Florida courts for more than two decades. If you have been retaliated against for complaining about employment discrimination or have questions about an employer’s failure to take any action in response to a workplace discrimination complaint, please contact our office for a free consultation with our retaliatory termination attorneys in Ocala, Florida. Our labor law attorneys take 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.