You have done everything right. You provide a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for taking an adverse employment action against one of your employees. You provide all the evidence any jury could ever want, which you believe shows that the employee was never treated differently than other similarly situated employees. You think you are a sure bet for winning summary judgment. Right? Wrong! You just forgot about one of the largest problems in employment discrimination: the retaliation claim.
Employers are prohibited under various provisions of state and federal law from retaliating against employees who engage in certain protected activities and/or who “blow the whistle” on employer misdeeds. Indeed, the Florida legislature has enacted specific “whistleblower” statutes designed to protect employees in the private and public sectors and incorporated anti-retaliation provisions into numerous other state and local laws. None of these specific statutes require any finding of discrimination.
It is important for employers in Florida to be mindful of the federal, state, and local prohibitions as whistleblower and retaliation claims are forever on the rise and although retaliation claims may be brought in isolation, more often than not, they are coupled with claims alleging underlying statutory violations. And, as recent decisions highlight, the law of retaliation continues to expand. In fact, the EEOC has reported that in 2011, it received 37,334 charges of retaliation under Title VII, the ADEA, the ADA and the EPA – which represents 37.4% of all charges of discrimination filed with the EEOC in 2011 – making retaliation claims the most popular employee claims in 2011.
Whistleblower and retaliation claims are at an all-time high. For more information about recent case decisions that are shaping how the courts and administrative agencies are dealing with these claims, we hope you will join us at Akerman’s 17th Annual Labor & Employment Law Seminar on April 19, 2012. To learn more, please visit http://www.akerman.com/events/LELS12/overview.asp