Woman Fired After Testifying for Coworker; She Sues and Collects $100k Settlement
You’ve heard a supervisor use offensive language when talking to another staffer. Eventually, the coworker decides to sue and asks you to be a witness in the case.
While you know that what you saw was wrong, you’re also afraid that speaking up about it could get you fired. So what should you do?
That’s a question that Mary Goulet, an employee of Goodwill Industries, had to grapple with. Goulet worked with an older woman who felt that she’d been subjected to discriminatory treatment due to her age and her gender. She eventually spoke to a lawyer and sued the company.
Goulet was asked to testify. She decided to participate in the trial, where she answered several questions about the incidents she’d witnessed. Not long after the court proceedings, Goulet was fired.
Getting Back at Her
Goulet filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The agency launched an investigation and eventually sued on Goulet’s behalf, alleging that the company had fired her in retaliation for her participating in her coworker’s lawsuit.
The company attempted to have the case thrown out, but wasn’t successful. Rather than trying to defend its actions in a jury trial, it agreed to settle the case.
Goulet was awarded $100,000 in monetary relief. The company also had to agree to modify certain rules related to its discrimination and retaliation policies.
(The case discussed here is EEOC v. Goodwill Industries.)
What Constitutes Retaliation
The law offers protection to workers who file discrimination charges about potential illegal activity. Workers who participate in discrimination claims filed by others, as in Goulet’s case, are afforded the same protection.
It’s important to keep in mind that retaliation can take many forms. In addition to termination, any “adverse employment action,” that is, anything that unfavorably changes the terms and conditions of a person’s employment after they’ve participated in a protected activity, may generally be considered retaliation. That includes demotions, refusal to hire or promote, threats, unjustified negative evaluations or references, increased oversight, and assaults or criminal activity that might be designed to keep the person from pursuing or participating in a complaint.
Contact the Murphy Law Group Now for a Free Consultation
As this EEOC fact sheet shows, determining what is and is not retaliation can be complicated. If you believe that you’ve suffered an adverse employment action after complaining about discrimination or participating in someone else’s complaint, it’s a good idea to speak to an attorney.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (267) 273-1054 for a free consultation.