Here’s a unique spin on a retaliation claim: An employee files an internal complaint alleging his supervisor is discriminating against him. Then the supervisor files his own internal complaint against the employee. Is that retaliation?
Not according to the court in this case.
Recent case: Rudolph Alexander, who is black, is a tenured professor of social work at Ohio State University. When a new dean arrived at the College of Social Work, Alexander began complaining about what he perceived as racial discrimination.
He claimed, for example, that he was getting smaller raises than other, nonblack professors. He also claimed the new dean removed him from a departmental role and relegated him to lesser duties.
But Alexander didn’t just complain. He also refused to sign a new pledge that said social workers should accept homosexuality, claiming such a view might not be consistent with religious views and might infringe on students’ civil rights. He called the dean a “leprechaun,” “gay” and a “liar.” He suggested the dean had AIDS and might intimidate faculty by “getting in their face.” Alexander also sent an email to the university’s attorney counsel saying that when he saw the dean, “I want to punch him in the face.”
The dean then filed an internal complaint against Alexander, who promptly sued, alleging retaliation.
But the court quickly tossed out the case, reasoning that the dean’s internal complaint wasn’t retaliation, given the documented behavior that prompted it. (Alexander v. Ohio State, No. 10-3358, 6th Cir., 2011)
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