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Employee Terminated for Advising Co-Workers About Employment Rights

Employees are protected from retaliation if they oppose unlawful discriminatory activities that violate the anti-discrimination employment laws. Protected "opposition" activity is a broad concept that can include different types of communication that either explicitly or implicitly opposes perceived employment discrimination. It must be shown that the opposition must be based on a reasonable good faith belief that the conduct was, or could become, unlawful. In a prior post, we answered the question of whether an employee can be fired for complaining about someone else being harassed. In this post, we will discuss a case where an employee was fired for simply advising co-workers about their employment rights.

EEOC Files Lawsuit Against Aloha Auto Group

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against Aloha Auto Group in Hawaii, alleging that they terminated Daniel Young after he encouraged a group of minority employees to complain about a racially discriminatory comment. According to the lawsuit, Young was approached by a group of Asian-American and Pacific Islander employees at one of the company’s Harley-Davidson dealerships. They informed him that the dealership’s general manager had made these discriminatory comments. Young advised them that they had a right to file a hostile work environment complaint and the company ultimately fired him for doing so.

Retaliation in Violation of Title VII

Terminating an employee for advising another employee about their rights under Title VII is considered opposition activity and it is protected by the anti-retaliation provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended. After being unsuccessful in settling the claims prelitigation through the EEOC’s conciliation process, the lawsuit was filed. The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii, seeks back pay, benefits, compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of Young. It also requests injunctive relief for the purpose of preventing future workplace discrimination.

Lawsuit settled for $30,000 and a consent decree

"Retaliation is the most common type of discrimination charge EEOC receives," said Anna Park, regional attorney for EEOC's Los Angeles District. "Informing other employees of their workplace rights is a protected activity and trying to quash that right is unlawful." The lawsuit against Aloha Auto Group was settled for $30,000 in damages to Young. The consent decree that was entered further requires the company to choose an equal employment opportunity (EEO) monitor to oversee the company's compliance with Title VII and internal anti-retaliation policies and procedures.

Under the consent decree, the company is also required to implement a complaint process and conduct impartial investigations. They are also expected to maintain a centralized tracking system for discrimination and retaliation complaints, and to establish policies that hold employees accountable for those illegal acts. The consent decree included further provisions as well.

If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation in the workplace, or if you have any other questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced employment law attorneys at Wrady & Michel, LLC. You can contact us either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880. We are here to serve you!