Standards of Causation for Federal Retaliation Claims in Georgia

There are a wide array of pieces of information that can help your employment discrimination case. Many may involve factual issues and tend to prove the discrimination you’ve alleged. Other are matters of law, like the degree of causal connection you need to succeed in your type of discrimination case. A knowledgeable Atlanta employment discrimination lawyer is someone who can combine your factual evidence with an in-depth knowledge of the law to give you the total representation you need.

M.L.’s race discrimination case was one where issues of causation were key. She was also a Black woman over the age of 40 and a mammographer at an Air Force base in Florida, In 2016-18, she allegedly experienced discrimination at her job with the Air Force.

By the summer of 2016, the mammographer’s supervisor was a non-Black woman under the age of 40. That supervisor allegedly engaged in a variety of forms of discrimination that included: berating her, failing to give her feedback as part of a negative performance evaluation, and criticizing her for failing to complete non-mandatory tasks.

On those bases, the mammographer launched an age discrimination, race discrimination, and retaliation lawsuit.

Although the federal trial court that initially heard the mammographer’s case sided with the employer, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals (whose rulings directly guide federal cases in Georgia, Florida, and Alabama) recently issued a ruling siding with the employee and reviving her case.

Retaliation Doesn’t Require Establishing ‘But-For’ Causation

When it comes to a retaliation claim, the court made it clear that a worker need not demonstrate that discriminatory intent was the “but-for” cause for the adverse action. (“But-for” causation, as the name implies, is a high hurdle that means showing that, but for the decisionmaker’s discriminatory feelings, the discrimination would not have happened.)

Instead, a lower standard applied — one where a worker needs only show that, even if there were legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for the adverse action the employer took, “the presence of those reasons doesn’t cancel out the presence, and the taint, of discriminatory” animus established by the plaintiff.

Retaliation Also Doesn’t Require Success on Your Discrimination Claim

It’s also useful to remember that, even if the mistreatment you endured doesn’t amount to illegal discrimination, that doesn’t automatically mean you don’t have a valid retaliation claim. Generally, as long as a worker holds a good-faith belief that they were the victim of illegal discrimination, that’s enough.

These standards mattered a great deal in M.L.’s case. While the mammographer’s age discrimination and race discrimination claims failed, she was entitled to continue pursuing her retaliation claim, which still had the potential for success. The trial court had applied the “but-for” standard to the woman’s retaliation claim and, because “but-for” causation was not the correct standard, M.L. was entitled to continue pursuing that claim.

If you’ve been the target of discrimination or retaliation on the job, don’t suffer in silence. Reach out to a knowledgeable lawyer and find out what options may exist for you. The diligent Atlanta race discrimination attorneys at the law firm of Parks, Chesin & Walbert are here to help. We’ve successfully represented countless workers harmed by illegal discrimination and harassment in their workplaces, and we’re ready to get to work for you. Contact us through this website or at 404-873-8048 to schedule a consultation.

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