Employees sometimes gripe rather generally about working conditions. If those complaints don’t relate to some specific allegation based on protected characteristics like sex, age, national origin or the like, courts probably won’t consider the complaint protected activity that sets up a retaliation lawsuit.
Recent case: Irene Martinez worked as a secretary at a juvenile correctional facility and took offense when a drill sergeant yelled at her. She complained about his behavior.
Martinez was fired shortly after for not reporting a student injury. She sued, alleging that she had been retaliated against for complaining.
The court said her complaint didn’t amount to protected activity because she never said she had been yelled at due to her sex or other protected characteristics. Therefore, there could be no retaliation. (Martinez v. Wilson County, et al., No. 04-09-00233, Court of Appeals of Texas, 4th District, 2010)
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