It’s illegal to retaliate against employees for engaging in protected activity. But not every complaint qualifies as protected activity.
For example, under Title VII, retaliation is only illegal if it relates to a complaint about some form of discrimination covered by that law.
Recent case: Gilberte, who is black, worked as a nurse. She filed a report alleging that faulty equipment was causing incorrect readings. Shortly after, she was criticized for her handling of a particular patient. She resigned rather than risk termination.
Then she sued under Title VII, alleging that her report about the equipment was protected activity and claiming she had been fired in retaliation for the report.
The court tossed out her lawsuit, reasoning that nothing in her initial report concerned to her race. Therefore, she had not been retaliated against for reporting suspected discrimination or other Title VII violations. (Fouche v. St. Charles Hospital, No. 14-CV-02492, ED NY, 2014)