What must be proven to win a retaliation case?

Retaliation is one of the fasting growing causes of action in the realm of employment law. An employer may not retaliate against an employee who opposed any unlawful discriminatory practice; made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in any investigation, proceeding, or hearing concerning discrimination. Doing one of these acts is considered protected conduct.

The employee must then prove that the employer intended to retaliate when the employer took the challenged job action. The employee need not prove that the sole purpose of the challenged job action was retaliation. It is sufficient that the employee prove that the retaliation would not have occurred “but-for” the protected activity. Courts in the Eleventh Circuit have held that there can be more than one “but-for” cause of he employer’s decision to take the challenged conduct. The employee need not prove that the protected conduct was the only reason. It is not a “but-for” cause if the employee would have suffered the challenged conduct regardless of the protected conduct. In other words, the action complained of must be done because of intentional discrimination.

Additionally, the employee must have a reasonable belief that the employer engaged in a discriminatory employment practice before the employee takes the protected conduct, whether or not the employer did, in fact, engage in a discriminatory employment practice. The issue is not whether the employer actually engaged in a discriminatory employment practice. “Reasonable belief” means that belief which would be held by a reasonably cautious, careful, or prudent person under the same or similar circumstances. This is based on an objective standard of reasonableness. Additionally, the employer must have had knowledge that the employee took the protected conduct before the employer took the challenged conduct.

If you believe that your employer has treated you wrongly, call me at (912) 244-3999 to schedule an initial consultation so we can sit down and talk about the facts of your case and so that I can give you my opinion about whether or not you have a case.