Articles Posted in Workplace Retaliation

Race discrimination in the workplace is unlawful under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Race discrimination claims, like other employment law claims, are subject to strict statute of limitations filing deadlines. Subject to certain very limited exceptions, the failure to file within the applicable deadline will forever bar a victim of employment discrimination from recovering damages – which can include financial loss, emotional distress, and punitives.

In Green v. Brennan, the United States Supreme Court decided when the filing period for a constructive discharge begins to run. There, the plaintiff, Marvin Green, worked for the Postal Service for 35 years. In 2008, he applied for a promotion and was passed over. Green alleged that he was denied the promotion because of his race and that he suffered retaliation thereafter. In 2011, two of Green’s supervisors accused him of delaying the mail; a criminal offense which prompted an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). During the investigation, the supervisors provided Green with a letter re-assigning him to off-duty status. Although the OIG ultimately concluded that no further investigation was required, the supervisors maintained to Green that “the OIG is all over this” and that the criminal charge “could be a life changer.”

Retaliation against employees who exercise their right to medical leave is prohibited under Massachusetts and federal law.  As with any employment discrimination suit,  plaintiffs who bring retaliation claims must overcome various hurdles before having a jury hear and decide their case.  Under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure and its federal corollary, for instance, an employer may file a motion near the start of the litigation asking the court to dismiss the case due to the alleged lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts to support a particular theory. As an example, a plaintiff who brings suit under the Family and Medical Leave Act against a company that has less than 50 employees would not survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion because the law only generally applies to employers with at least 50 employees.

In addition, under Rule 56 of the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure and its federal corollary, an employer will likely file a motion after the close of discovery once again asking the court to dismiss the case. Through this mechanism, the employer must show that – even when viewing all the evidence in the most favorable light to the employee – there’s no chance a reasonable jury could rule in his or her favor.