Federal employment laws prohibit many forms of discrimination, including
religious, sex and race discrimination. Employers are also prohibited
from retaliating against workers who complain about discrimination. A
recent case looked at what actions could support a claim for retaliation
under Title VII.
Hilton v. Shin, a woman – Glynese Hilton – was fired after she sued for
retaliation under Title VII. Her claims were based on allegations that she was subjected
to sexual harassment by the president of the company she worked for. Hilton’s
actions included repeatedly rejecting Yoon S. Shin’s sexually obnoxious advances.
Here, shortly after Hilton began working Shin allegedly started pressuring
her for sex. He told her that he wanted to have lunch with her at her
house, an invitation she declined, and approached her in the company garage
to ask for a kiss and a hug. When he began touching her at work, she told
him that he was making her uncomfortable.
According to Hilton, Shin sent her emails asking her to meet with him in
his office on Valentine’s Day. When she said no, he phoned her expressing
anger and sent her an angry email. After that, Hilton said, Shin became
“cold, distant, and uncommunicative,” and he gave her an annual
performance review that she believed was “undeservedly unfavorable.”
A few months later, Hilton was fired.
The lower court determined that Hilton could not maintain a claim for retaliation
based on her “simply spurning” the sexual advances.
However, the District Court for the District of Maryland disagreed finding
that “refusing” sexual advances may constitute “opposition
to” harassment, and be enough to support an allegation of retaliation.
The court noted that to establish a case retaliation for under Title VII,
Hilton must show that she engaged in protected activity and that she had
a reasonable and good faith belief that the conduct she opposed constituted
unlawful discrimination under Title VII. Here, the court determined that
the sum of the actions constituted enough to support a claim for retaliation,
but cautioned that a “faint refusal to submit” to advances
may not be enough to support of claim.
For more information, or if you believe you have been subjected to workplace
discrimination or retaliation, please contact the top
Georgia employment discrimination lawyers at The Buckley Law Firm, LLC for an immediate consultation.