No one should, as a worker, have to choose between their job and speaking out when they see discrimination or sexual harassment in the workplace. Too many times, though, speaking out does lead to workplace punishment. When that happens to you, it is possible that your employer has engaged in illegal retaliation, so you should get in touch with a knowledgeable Atlanta employment lawyer to learn more about the legal options that may exist for you.
P.P. alleged in her Title VII case that that was exactly what happened to her. She worked as a supervisory employee for a burger restaurant in Atlanta where the owner-franchisee was the higher ranking person and the general manager was second in command.
One day in November 2018, the supervisor allegedly saw the general manager grope a male worker, but P.P. didn’t confront the manager. When the owner learned about the incident elsewhere, she began her own investigation during which she interviewed P.P. The supervisor told the owner what she saw and offered to provide a written statement.
A few weeks later, the general manager and another employee came to the restaurant. They were not in uniform and didn’t clock in. They allegedly told everyone, including P.P., to leave for the day. P.P. did as she was allegedly instructed. When P.P. returned to the restaurant, the general manager told her she was fired “for job abandonment.”
P.P. sued, alleging that her firing actually was retaliation for her participation in the investigation into the general manager’s alleged act of sexual harassment.
Two Different Situations Where You Are Protected When You Speak Out
In a Title VII retaliation case, there are two groups of activities that are considered to be protected, meaning that your employer cannot punish you for doing them without running afoul of the laws against retaliation. One is acts where “the employee opposed any practice made unlawful by” the statute. This is known as “the opposition clause.” The other covers acts where “the employee has made a charge, testified, assisted or participated in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under Title VII.” This is known as the “participation clause.”
To meet the law’s evidentiary standards for establishing an act (or acts) of opposition, P.P. had to prove that she “had a ‘good faith, reasonable belief’ that her employer engaged in an unlawful employment practice and that she opposed that practice.”
You don’t have to file a complaint to meet this standard of “opposition;” participating in an internal investigation initiated by your employer can be enough. In P.P.’s case, when she provided the owner with information about the alleged instance of sexual harassment and volunteered to provide a written statement as part of the owner’s investigation, she was opposing unlawful sexual harassment, and engaged in a protected activity, so firing her potentially constituted retaliation.
No one wants to be punished at work for doing the right thing, but it happens. Sometimes when it happens, that punishment constitutes a violation of the law and you may be entitled to recover compensation. To find what you can do in your circumstance, reach out to the skilled Atlanta workplace retaliation attorneys at the law firm of Parks, Chesin & Walbert. Our firm has an extensive track record of helping people who have been wronged in much the same way as you, so we have the knowledge and experience it takes for success. Contact us through this website or at 877-986-5529 to schedule a consultation regarding your situation.