Human Resources News & Insights

Employer beats bias charge — but pays for retaliation

You’ve no doubt heard that retaliation claims are now the most common complaints filed with the EEOC. Here’s a real-life example of why — and how expensive these cases can turn out to be for employers.

Albert Thomas, an African-American, worked for an Alabama chemical company for over 25 years.

But then, he alleged, he came upon several white rags cut in the form of a Ku Klux Klan hood in his workspace. When he pointed the hood out to his supervisor, Thomas claimed, the manager reacted by holding up the hood and making inappropriate comments and gestures.

Subsequently, Thomas was accused of violating a company policy and was demoted. A white employee replaced him.

Thomas filed a racial discrimination charge with the EEOC — which resulted in company officials threatening to “fire his black —,” he claimed.

A short time later, Thomas was terminated.

Couldn’t prove bias

The case went before a federal jury. The jury found Thomas couldn’t prove his racial discrimination claims.

But he was successful in proving the company fired him in retaliation for filing those claims. The jury awarded him $314,000 in damages.

The takeaway

This case is a perfect example of the reason retaliation charges have gone through the roof: It’s a lot easier to prove retaliation than discrimination.

And it’s a good reminder of the importance of conducting a through investigation of every complaint — and making sure not to take any adverse action against a complaining employee without absolutely airtight reasons for doing so.

In the real world, this may well mean bending over backwards to not give the impression of retaliation. That flexibility might just keep an employer out of court.

Cite: Thomas v. Chemical Lime Company

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  1. Mr. Gould:

    I had provided information, available on the Internet of apparent misrepresentation on an offical EEOC document Form 161 and information see Authority & Role that EEOC does not investigate every charge. EEOC is a federal civil rights law enforcement agency required by law to investigate. Refer to CRST wins $4.5 million and Comments. This can be seen as violation Title 18 sec.242 the purview of Attorney General to investigate. I can provide more information fro those who share the concept of equal treatment under the law. The law: All people are treated the same under the law. CRST and Comments suggest the opposite. I’ve posted mail to Jim Gilinao on this issue of apparent discratory practices and abuses by EEOC.

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