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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.

Unlawful Retaliation Case Alleges Worker Was Subjected To Retaliatory Drug Test & Surveillance

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Having represented victims of unlawful retaliation for more than two decades, our Citrus County, Florida unlawful retaliation lawyers know that employees are often subjected to a pattern of antagonism after complaining about perceived discrimination in the workplace. For example, employees are subjected to verbal warnings, disciplinary action, negative performance evaluations, and a barrage of criticism after lodging a discrimination complaint. In many cases, an employer’s pattern of antagonism culminates in the taking of adverse employment action against the employee, such as a retaliatory failure to promote or termination. In this article, our Homosassa, Florida unlawful retaliation lawyers explain how the decision in Chambers v. Pennsylvania,Case No. 19-2867 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 13, 2020) illustrates that a pattern of antagonism following an employee’s discrimination complaint constitutes evidence that can be used to prove an unlawful retaliation case.

Worker Claims Retaliatory Failure To Promote

In that case, Michael Chambers (Chambers) brought a retaliation case against his former employers, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP), pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). Title VII protects employees from discrimination when they complain about perceived discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, or religion in the workplace. Chambers claims that the PSP unlawfully retaliated against him for complaining about perceived discriminatory employment practices.

Chambers began working for the PSP in 1993. Chambers was promoted three times during his career with the PSP, most recently in 2012, when he was promoted to Sergeant. But after that, even though he was recommended for move to the next position in the chain of command, he was never promoted to Lieutenant. Chambers contends that the reason he was not promoted was because of his complaints of discrimination.

On February 6, 2017, Chambers filed an internal discrimination complaint. Five days after his complaint was filed, Chambers’ supervisor, Major Gray, declined to recommend Chambers for a promotion. Chambers further asserts that, one week after he filed the complaint, in retaliation for his doing so, the PSP scheduled him for a random drug test, despite the fact that he had never been subjected to a drug screening previously. Evidently, the drug test did not happen. In March 2017, according to Chambers, the PSP also placed him under surveillance.

Worker Repeatedly Passed Over For Promotion

On March 14, 2017, Chambers filed another complaint documenting the alleged retaliatory attempted drug test and the surveillance. In March 2017, Chambers’ Commander recommended him for promotion to Major Gray. Major Gray ultimately recommended three Sergeants for promotion, including Chambers as his third choice. On June 17, 2017, fifteen Sergeants were promoted to Lieutenant, none of whom were recommended by Major Gray. In November 2017, Chambers filed another complaint alleging that the failure to promote him in June 2017 was in retaliation for “identifying discriminatory promotion practices.”

In January 2018, Major Gray recommended four Sergeants for promotion and included Chambers as his fourth choice. Along with fourteen others, Major Gray’s first and second choices were promoted to Lieutenant the following month. In March 2018, after having been repeatedly passed over for promotion after lodging complaints of perceived discriminatory employment practices, Chambers retired from the PSP.

Denied Promotion Shortly After Complaint

The PSP filed a motion with the trial court seeking dismissal of Chambers’ retaliatory failure to promote claim. In support of its motion for dismissal, the PSP argued that Chambers was not promoted because he was not the best candidate for promotion. The trial court denied the PSP’s motion for dismissal and ruled that Chambers had presented sufficient evidence to establish that he was denied promotion in retaliation for complaining about perceived discriminatory employment practices to proceed to a jury trial. In denying the PSP’s motion for dismissal, the trial court focused on two strands of evidence.

First, the trial court focused on the timing between Chambers’ complaints of discrimination and the failure to promote him. Close timing between an employee’s discrimination complaint and the adverse employment action, the trial court explained, is evidence of a causal link between the two events. The trial court pointed out that Chambers filed his first discrimination complaint on February 6, 2017 and was denied promotion five days later. “Such close temporal proximity between his being denied promotion,” the trial court determined, “could create a reasonable inference to the factfinder that the complaint may have been a factor.”

The trial court also noted that Chambers was denied promotion three months after this first discrimination complaint. Although the three-month gap was not “inherently suggestive” of retaliation as the five-day gap, the trial court pointed out that Chambers’ supervisor “recommended him for promotion this time, and he still did not receive one—which can support an inference that the timing is suggestive” of retaliation. Finally, directly on the heels of his complaint in November 2017, Chambers was denied promotion in February 2018, even though he was, once again, recommended for promotion. “A reasonable factfinder,” the trial court concluded, “could find this timing suggestive” of retaliation.

Pattern Of Antagonism Shows Retaliatory Motive

Second, the trial court focused on the pattern of antagonism following Chambers’ complaints of discriminatory employment practices. A pattern of antagonism following an employee’s complaint, the trial court observed, is evidence of a causal link between the employee’s complaint and the adverse employment action. As evidence of a pattern of antagonism, the trial court pointed to the PSP’s attempts to drug test Chambers and the surveillance of Chambers. The trial court found that “these incidents, which all occurred after” Chambers filed his first discrimination complaint, “support a pattern of antagonism.” Because an employer’s pattern of antagonism is evidence of a retaliatory motive, the trial court concluded that a reasonable jury could find that Chambers was denied promotion in retaliation for complaining about perceived discriminatory employment practices.

Homosassa, FL Lawyers For Retaliation Victims

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, our Citrus County, Florida unlawful retaliation attorneys have more than twenty years of experience fighting for the rights of employees subjected to unlawful retaliation. If you have been the victim of retaliation or have questions about your protection from retaliation under the federal anti-discrimination laws, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Homosassa, Florida unlawful retaliation lawyers. Our employment and labor law attorneys take retaliation cases 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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