Before an employee can claim his employer retaliated, he has to show he engaged in a protected activity. But vague claims aren’t enough.
Recent case: Patrick Flint was fired from his job as a supervisor for spewing profanity at his subordinates. But he claimed he had actually been fired for another reason: because he had complained when another supervisor said Flint had inappropriately touched a female employee’s hair.
That accusation, Flint told HR at the time, was defamation. He sued.
The court said his earlier complaint wasn’t protected activity because it mentioned no discriminatory action—just a vague complaint that another supervisor tried to harm his reputation. Since he hadn’t engaged in any protected activity, there couldn’t have been any retaliation. (Flint v. Tucker Printers, No. 09-CV-6083, WD NY, 2011)
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