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Testifying for subordinate may be protected activity

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources

Supervisors who stand up for subordinates when they claim they have been discriminated against may be engaging in “protected activity.” That could make punishing those supervisors retaliation.

Recent case: Adolph Vincent, who is black, had worked for Pacific Gas & Electric for more than 35 years when he agreed to testify on behalf of a black subordinate he believed has been discriminated against. Vincent urged his own supervisor to implement diversity training after another subordinate complained of race discrimination.

PG&E then terminated Vincent, and he sued, alleging retaliation.

The court said the case should go to trial because advocating on behalf of another employee is protected activity. (Vincent v. Pacific Gas & Electric Company, No. 07-5531, ND CA, 2009)

Final note: Suddenly terminating a longtime employee looks suspicious. If you must, carefully document the reasons. Otherwise, a jury may conclude the motive was retaliation.

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