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Retaliation claim doesn’t win if it’s filed in wrong court

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in Employment Law,Firing,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

An Elkhart employer is off the hook for retaliatory discharge for now—but maybe not for long.

Lisa Lubarsky was reportedly a good employee of INOVA Federal Credit Union in Elkhart. In 2007, the credit union repossessed a customer’s Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Apparently the bike caught the eye of Lisa Adams, an INOVA department manager. Lubarsky learned that Adams allegedly circumvented company rules to purchase the motorcycle.

Lubarsky reported the violation to her supervisor, Diana Suchert, and to upper-level management. Shortly after, Suchert was removed from her position as Lubarsky’s supervisor.

The next day, Suchert reportedly came to Lubarsky’s office and berated her. Lubarsky reported the incident to HR, which instructed her to complain to Adams, the woman whose alleged rule-breaking had set the whole chain of events in motion. Adams allegedly told Lubarsky to talk to an INOVA executive.

Two days later, the credit union terminated Lubarsky for insubordination and making false accusations. She sued in a South Bend federal court for retaliatory discharge under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

U.S. District Judge Philip Simon agreed that Lubarsky made a plausible case for retaliatory discharge. But her complaint alleged Title VII retaliation, which applies only to activities relating to discrimination prohibited by the Civil Rights Act. Simon noted that Lubarsky “may have a viable state law wrongful termination claim,” but that was not the claim she brought to court. He dismissed her case.

Note: Lubarsky could bring her wrongful termination lawsuit to state court. However, she would still have to prove that the activities she “blew the whistle” on violated public policy.

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