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Email claiming ‘mistreatment’ not protected activity

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Employees who complain about discrimination are protected from retaliation. But their complaints have to be specific, at least mentioning why they suspect discrimination. Other­­wise, they aren’t engaged in protected activity and can’t allege retaliation.

Recent case: Michael, who worked for the Federal Emergency Man­­age­­ment Agency, sent his boss an email stating, “I feel as if I am being mistreated.” Shortly after, he was fired for misusing his agency charge card. Michael sued, alleging retaliation.

The case was quickly dismissed because he hadn’t engaged in protected activity. He never specified how or why he felt mistreated. With­­out a specific statement that includes at least a mention of his protected status, a general statement simply isn’t enough to put the employer on notice about possible discrimination. (Riley v. Napolitano, No. 13-30008, 5th Cir., 2013)

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