Employers in Alabama with more than 15 employees are subject to the anti-retaliation provisions of Title VII.  Under Title VII, an employer may not fire, demote, harass or otherwise “retaliate” against an individual for filing a charge of discrimination, participating in a discrimination proceeding, or otherwise opposing discrimination.   To establish a retaliation claim under Title VII, a plaintiff must prove that: (1) he or she participated in an activity protected by Title VII; (2) he or she suffered an adverse employment action; and (3) there is a causal connection between the participation in the protected activity and the adverse employment decision. Thus, a claim for retaliation arises when an employer takes an adverse action against a covered individual because he or she engaged in a protected activity.

What is an Adverse Action?

The EEOC defines an adverse action as “an action taken to try to keep someone from opposing a discriminatory practice, or from participating in an employment discrimination proceeding.”  Examples of adverse actions include:

• employment actions such as termination, refusal to hire, wage and hour cuts, and denial of promotion, • other actions affecting employment such as threats, unjustified negative evaluations, or unjustified negative references • any other action likely to deter reasonable people from pursuing their rights.

Even if the prior protected activity alleged wrongdoing by a different employer, retaliatory adverse actions are unlawful.  For example, it is unlawful for a worker’s current employer to retaliate against him for pursuing an EEO charge against a former employer.

Who is a Covered Individual?

Covered individuals are people who have opposed unlawful practices, participated in proceedings, or requested accommodations related to employment discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, or disability. Individuals who have a close association with someone who has engaged in such protected activity also are covered individuals. For example, it is illegal to terminate an employee because his spouse participated in employment discrimination litigation.

What is Protected Activity?

Protected activity is generally described as opposition to a practice believed to be unlawful discrimination. Opposition is informing an employer that you believe that it is engaging in prohibited discrimination.  Opposition is protected from retaliation as long as it is based on a reasonable, good-faith belief that the complained of practice violates anti-discrimination law; and the manner of the opposition is reasonable.

Examples of protected opposition include:

• Complaining about alleged discrimination against oneself or others; • Threatening to file a charge of discrimination; • Refusing to obey an order reasonably believed to be discriminatory; • Participation in an employment discrimination proceeding, such as filing a charge of employment discrimination, cooperating  or serving as a witness with an internal or EEOC investigation of alleged discriminatory practices, or requesting a reasonable accommodation based on religion or disability.

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