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Protected activity can include protesting racial comment

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

In some circumstances, all it takes to launch a retaliation lawsuit is a supervisor’s isolated, insensitive comment.

Recent case: Mark LaFranco, who worked in sales, is half Jewish. While at a convention with his new supervisor, LaFranco suggested they talk about his commissions. LaFranco claimed the boss said, “What, are you a Jew?”

LaFranco said he was startled and blurted out that he was indeed half Jewish. The supervisor then abruptly left the room without saying anything else. Shortly after, LaFranco was fired.

He sued, alleging retaliation for pointing out that he is Jewish. A jury agreed and the company appealed.

The appeals court said LaFranco engaged in protected activity when he identified himself as Jewish after the boss’s comment. It upheld the jury award. (LaFranco v. Avaya, No, A-1666, Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, 2009)

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