Court Saw Through Company’s Attempt at Retaliation
Employer sued woman after her complaint of unfair pay
In a lot of ways, Tera Lopez personifies many workers’ worst fears about facing off against a company. Lopez found herself on the receiving end of a lawsuit by her former employer after she filed a discrimination complaint.
Unfortunately, all too many instances of discrimination go unchecked because employees are afraid to speak up. Worried that they’ll wind up with a target on their backs, they continue to put up with unfair or unlawful behavior.
However, as Lopez’s case shows, justice is possible. Let’s take a look at what happened to her and then discuss how federal law handles unlawful retaliation against employees.
Revenge though the courts
Tera Lopez was tired of being paid less than her male counterparts at Hobson Bearing International. After three years with the company, she quit her job as a project manager and filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The EEOC investigated Lopez’s complaint, but made no determination about the company’s pay practices.
Even though the company escaped legal trouble from the EEOC, it still had an axe to grind over the complaint. Hobson sued Lopez for malicious prosecution.
Once again, Lopez turned to the EEOC. This time, Hobson wasn’t so lucky. The agency sued the company, claiming that it unlawfully retaliated against Lopez for filing her original complaint. It pointed out that employees who complain about unlawful activity fall into a protected class that shields them from retaliation. Because the company’s lawsuit was directly related to Lopez’s complaint, the EEOC alleged that the company was in violation of federal law.
Lopez won. The court ruled that Hobson violated federal law by suing Lopez over her complaint.
Hobson had to pay Lopez $37,500 and drop its lawsuit against her.
(The case discussed here is EEOC v. Hobson Bearing International, Inc.)
Protection from retaliation
The EEOC states that about 45% of the complaints it receives involve some form of employer retaliation.
However, it’s important to know that federal law offers workers protection from retaliation after they have complained about unlawful or perceived unlawful activity. Some states and municipalities also have their own anti-retaliation laws.
The EEOC has recently released new enforcement guidelines to help ensure that workers are protected.
Contact us now for a free consultation
Retaliation complaints can be complicated, as they may fall under a variety of federal, state, and local statues. If you believe that you’ve been the victim of unlawful retaliation, it’s a good idea to speak to an attorney.
Call or email us today to discuss your unique situation.