Firing Right After Bias Charge Equals Retaliation

By James Hatch

Mar. 14, 2008

Charles Mickey was employed by Zeidler Tool and Die Co. for 33 years. In October 2004, at age 64, he was asked about his retirement plans and then received a pay cut on the grounds that the company was not doing well. A younger manager, however, received a pay raise.

    Mickey’s EEOC charge of age discrimination was received by Zeidler on October 14, 2004. After the company learned of his EEOC charge, Mickey was immediately laid off. However, financial records indicated that Zeidler was profiting and advertising for new positions.

    Mickey brought suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, alleging age discrimination and retaliation.

    The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the employer on the grounds that Mickey failed to establish a prima facie case of unlawful retaliation, reasoning that the time between the filing of the EEOC notice and his layoff was not sufficient to demonstrate a connection between the protected activity of filing the EEOC charge and adverse employment action.

    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati reversed, stating, “Where adverse employment action occurs very close in time after an employer learns of a protected activity, such temporal proximity between the events is significant enough to constitute evidence of a causal connection for the purposes of satisfying a prima facie case of retaliation.”

    Since Mickey had been abruptly terminated on the same day that Zeidler had learned about the EEOC charge, the case was remanded to district court for a trial. Mickey v. Zeidler Tool and Die Co., No. 06-1960 (1/31/08).

    Impact: When an employee is fired immediately after the employer learns of a protected activity, it can be inferred that there is a causal connection between the two actions, even if the employee does not present other evidence of retaliation.

p>Workforce Management, March 3, 2008, p. 7Subscribe Now!

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