Casual question about bias isn’t protected activity — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Casual question about bias isn’t protected activity

by on
in Employment Law,Firing,Human Resources

Can a simple inquiry about discrimination become the basis for a lawsuit? No, according to the 11th Circuit.

Recent case: At one point during her time as a Books-a-Million employee, Kimberly Smith asked her boss if she was being discriminated against because of her race. She didn’t say anything more about it until she got a better-paying job with another employer.

Then she sued, alleging pay discrimination. She also said she had been retaliated against when she failed to receive a bonus.

The court nixed the retaliation claim because she hadn’t complained about discrimination—she had merely asked a casual question. The court dismissed her other claims, too. (Smith v. Books-a-Million, No. 09-15478, 11th Cir., 2010)

Final note: Do you perform exit interviews when an employee resigns? If so, document the conversation to show the employee didn’t complain about discrimination.

Leave a Comment