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Retaliation against employee is prohibited by employer

In some archaic legal systems there was a principle applied from the Latin term Lex talionis, which basically justifies a retaliatory action based on the Old Testament principle of "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." Today, that concept is out of favor. In employment law in Michigan and everywhere else, retaliation is strictly forbidden by the civil rights laws and by other statutes that protect employee rights.

Thus, the favored principle is that a person has a right to make complaints about an employer's reputed workplace discrimination. When the employer takes negative personnel action against a worker very soon after she files a discrimination complaint, the personnel action is per se evidence of illegal retaliation. The employer can try to fight the presumption, but it will be difficult to convince a trier of fact that the two are unconnected.

If the negative personnel action comes weeks or months after the employee's discrimination complaint, it will be a question of fact for the fact-finder to resolve whether the action was taken as retaliation. Employers should refrain in all but the most clear-cut situations from disciplining or demoting an employee who has filed a discrimination complaint. One important aspect of the retaliation count for damages is that the action is separate from all others that have been filed.

Thus, if the employer is exonerated of racial discrimination, for example, it may still be liable for the independent illegal retaliation against the employee. In one case in Indiana, a female manager in a deli filed a discrimination complaint against her deli market employer. She was quickly disciplined at work and shortly thereafter terminated from the job after the company failed to get her to drop her complaint.

The EEOC office stepped in and filed suit on behalf of the employee, asking the court to issue a permanent injunction against the company stopping it from any future retaliation. The complaint also asked for back wages, interest, compensatory and punitive damages. The case was still pending at last report. The rules on retaliation in this matter are governed by federal law and would be applicable in Michigan and all other states.

Source: indystar.com, Indiana gas station sued after firing deli clerk who filed discrimination complaint, No author, Dec. 24, 2013

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