A recent case evaluated whether alleged comments by a white human resources
manager could be used as evidence to support a claim for retaliation. In
Willis v. Cleco Corp., a black worker – Gregory Willis – filed a race discrimination
and retaliation claim based on his alleged termination as the result –
in part – of his complaining about a racially hostile conversation
between a co-worker and a supervisor. Shortly after Willis reported the
offensive conversation to senior officials at the company, he received
a disciplinary warning. The warning was based on his sending a mass email
containing information concerning the health of a co-workers son. Willis
was subsequently fired. Willis then filed a claim for employment discrimination
and retaliation pursuant to Title VII.
A retaliation claim may be filed where you complain about discriminatory
conduct in the workplace–either discrimination directed at you or
someone else in the workplace, and you are retaliated against as a result.
Retaliation doesn’t only mean that you were discharged for making
a complaint. It includes almost any negative action by your employer against
you (or even against a family member or friend) in response to your complaint
If you believe that you have may have suffered employment discrimination,
it’s a good idea to consult with a skilled
Georgia discrimination attorney right away. A knowledgeable discrimination lawyer can provide you crucial
advice concerning your next steps.
Many times in retaliation and discrimination cases, the employer will offer
an “excuse” for their discriminatory actions to avoid liability.
In legal terms the excuse is called “pretext” and is generally
defined as the reason that has been offered as an excuse for a particular
employment action – such as a termination – which is false
and is intended to cover up the real discriminatory reason.
In this instance, an affidavit in support of the discrimination lawsuit
provided that Willis’ supervisor had stated that he was “very
pissed” with Willis for reporting the conversation with and that,
“If we have to find a reason, [we] have decided; we are going to
terminate that n****r Greg Willis for reporting me and trying to burn
The U.S. Court of Appeals determined that a jury could determined that
if true, Willis was disciplined for retaliatory reasons and that such
statement was sufficient proof of pretext to show unlawful retaliation.
As such the man was able to maintain his claim for retaliation. Such decision
is an important victory for workers right and underscores the importance
of protecting the right of workers’ to complain about discrimination
without the fear of retribution.
For more information or if you believe that you have suffered employment
discrimination – or have been retaliated against – for complaining
about discrimination we urge you to consult with the dedicated
Georgia employee’s rights lawyers at The Buckley Law Firm for an immediate consultation.