Thursday, May 17, 2012

Retaliation Claim Dismissed As Not Related To Title VII Proceeding

In a case of first impression, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that the termination of employment in connection with an internal company investigation was not retaliatory where an EEOC Charge had not been filed. The case is Townsend, et al. v. Benjamin Enterprises, Inc., et al. and can be found here.

In Townsend, the Plaintiff was the director of human resources for the defendant corporation. Plaintiff alleged that she was terminated after commencing an internal investigation of a sexual harassment complaint made by the co-plaintiff against an officer of the corporation. The corporate officer was a shareholder of the company and owned it with his wife.

At the trial level, the District Court granted Defendants’ motion for summary judgment on the grounds that the Plaintiff was not engaged in protected activity under Title VII since an EEOC Charge has not been filed. On appeal, the Second Circuit affirmed and held that participation in an internal employer investigation not connected with a formal EEOC proceeding does not qualify as protected activity.

In reading the Second Circuit's decision, I can't help but believe that it will have a chilling effect on internal investigations concerning discrimination. If the investigator is not protected from retaliation where the investigation gets "too close to home," vigorous internal efforts to discover and remedy unlawful discrimination likely will suffer.

No comments: