Illegal retaliation occurs when an employer punishes an employee because he or she complained of discrimination or harassment or reported illegal activity. While many of the cases discussed involve whistleblowing, retaliation occurs for a number of reasons. If you believe you have been retaliated against, it is important that you speak with a lawyer who can help you determine the viability of your case and walk you through next steps.
Here are five recent examples of retaliation in the workplace.
1. Boston, MA: City of Boston Employee Awarded $10.9 Million
Chantal Charles, who is Haitian and African American, had been a long-time employee of the city of Boston, working as a senior administrative assistant at the Treasury Department. In 2011, she filed a complaint of retaliation and discrimination against the city, claiming she had been paid less than her Caucasian co-workers and received fewer benefits. When she complained about the wage disparity, her employer retaliated against her by giving her poor job evaluations.
Charles ended up winning her case against the city of Boston and was awarded $10 million in punitive damages, $500,000 for emotional distress, and $389,000 in additional pay, according to the Boston Globe.
2. The Navy: Powerful Admiral Violates Whistleblower Protection Laws
Rear Adm. Brian L. Losey, a high-ranking member of the U.S. Navy in charge of elite SEAL teams and other commando units, was found to be in violation of the Whistleblower Protection Act on three occasions after claims were made that Losey retaliated against staff members who he believed were whistleblowers. Yet, despite the inspector general recommending that the Navy take action against Losey and two of his colonels after a two year-long investigation, the Navy dismissed the charges.
According to the Washington Post,
Critics say the previously undisclosed investigations into one of the Navy’s top SEALs underscore the weakness of the military’s whistleblower-protection law and how rarely violators are punished.
In comparison with other federal employees, whistleblowers working in the military or national security agencies must meet a higher burden of proof to win their cases. The odds are stacked against those who seek redress.
The Navy is now considering promoting Losey.
3. New York: Whistleblower Case Receives Highest Possible Award Payment
The hedge fund Paradigm Capital Management, Inc. was charged with retaliation by the SEC in the SEC’s first retaliation case. According to the SEC, Paradigm retaliated against Candace King Weir, who had blown the whistle on the hedge fund when she reported potential misconduct to the commission. In response, the SEC awarded Weir 30 percent (the maximum whistleblower award payment) of the amounts collected, which equaled over $600,000.
A press release from the SEC stated that Weir would receive such a large award because she “suffered unique hardships, including retaliation, as a result of reporting to the Commission.” It further stated that after the firm learned of Weir’s report to the Commission,
Paradigm immediately engaged in a series of retaliatory actions against the whistleblower including removing the whistleblower from the whistleblower’s then-current position, tasking the whistleblower with investigating the very conduct the whistleblower reported to the SEC, changing the whistleblower’s job function, stripping the whistleblower of supervisory responsibilities, and otherwise marginalizing the whistleblower.
4. South Carolina, North Charleston: High School Teacher Sues School District for Retaliation
Valerie Paquette, a former high school teacher at the North Charleston High School, filed a lawsuit against the school district claiming it retaliated against her after she raised concerns with the school board over “questionable advantages some failing seniors received in order to graduate,” according to The Post and Courier.
The retaliation Paquette received came in the form of formal reprimands from the principal, the superintendent, and the former superintendent, who claimed Paquette had been insubordinate. Additionally, Paquette was reassigned to the middle school and was unable to find other employment due to the reprimands against her.
There has been no outcome as of yet in the case, as it is ongoing. However, the case shines a light on educational ethics and the effect that tying graduation rates and test scores to teacher reviews and pay can have.
5. San Diego, California: AutoZone Agrees to Drop $186 Million Pregnancy Discrimination Case
Rosario Juarez, an employee in one of the AutoZone San Diego branches, brought a lawsuit against her former employer after being told by AutoZone higher-ups that she could no longer perform her job due to her pregnancy. She was demoted and eventually fired. In an unprecedented win in the fight against pregnancy discrimination and retaliation, AutoZone announced it would drop its challenge to a $186 million pregnancy discrimination verdict.
At Spiggle Law, we help employees stand up for their rights and fight back against illegal employment practices. Our team of experienced lawyers can help you understand the nuances of the law as they apply to your case. Should you decide to move forward with your workplace retaliation case, we will act as your advocates and advisors from the initial consultation to the final settlement. Contact us to learn more about our team and schedule a consultation.