Employers can’t retaliate against employees for engaging in so-called protected activities. But figuring out what is protected can be hard.
Your best bet: Assume any complaint is protected.
Recent case: When airline employee James Hovanas and four co-workers (all over age 60) were left off a seniority list used to determine vacation and leave requests, they complained to and their union. Then they were terminated during a department reshuffling. They sued for age discrimination and retaliation.
The airline said their initial complaint about the seniority list didn’t mention age. But the court said their earlier complaint didn’t have to be specific. The court concluded it was reasonable to assume their complaint involved age bias because all the employees left off the list were over age 60. (Hovanas, et al., v. American Eagle Airlines, No. 3:09-CV-0209, ND TX, 2009)
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