Unlawful retaliation cases are based upon a claim that an employer took an adverse action against an employee based upon protected activity. Most employment discrimination laws not only make it illegal to discriminate against protected groups, but also prohibit retaliation against an employee who asserts his or her rights under the law.
An employee may claim that he or she is being retaliated against for complaining of discrimination, filing a charge of discrimination, making complaints to management, protesting against discrimination in general, expressing support of co-workers who have filed charges of discrimination or harassment, or testifying or assisting in an investigation, proceeding or hearing. Generally, an employee need not establish that the conduct he or she opposed was, in fact, discriminatory or illegal; rather, he or she must only demonstrate a “good faith, reasonable belief” that serious misconduct has occurred or the underlying conduct violated the law.
Under most laws and circumstances, to establish a causal connection between the protected activity and the adverse employment action, the employee must show that the employer actually knew of the employee's protected activity at the time it took the adverse employment action. The closer the time between the employer’s knowledge and the employment action, the more likely a court will infer causation.
Nonetheless, the United States Supreme Court has held that the analysis of causation in retaliation cases under Title VII is distinct from the analysis of causation in "status-discrimination" cases under Title VII. See Univ. of Texas Southwestern Med. Ctr. v. Nassar, 570 U.S. 338 (2013). In status-discrimination cases, an employee "need not show that the causal link between injury and wrong is so close that the injury would not have occurred but for the act. So-called but-for causation is not the test. It suffices instead to show that the motive to discriminate was one of the employer's motives, even if the employer also had other, lawful motives that were causative in the employer's decision." Id. at 343. But the Supreme Court concluded, in Title VII retaliation cases, "but-for causation" is the test. Id. at 360.
So while many general principles apply to statutes that prohibit workplace retaliation, there are important differences among the different various types of anti-retaliation laws that exist, such as the nature and scope of activities that are protected and the types of allegations, evidence, and argument which are required to sustain such claims. Courts regularly review and interpret the nature and scope of these statutes in the cases that come before them. We have intimate familiarity with a broad range of ant-retaliation statutes across several different industries and how courts across the country have interpreted and applied them.
Missouri Retaliation Claims
Under Missouri law, Section 213.070.2 RSMo. states that it is unlawful to “retaliate or discriminate in any manner against any other person because such person has opposed any practice prohibited by this chapter or because such person has filed a complaint, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in any investigation, proceeding or hearing conducted pursuant to this chapter.” Missouri courts have interpreted this anti-retaliation provision in varying ways. For example, in 2009, in Hill v. Ford Motor Company, the Missouri Supreme Court held that retaliation for opposing discrimination or for filing a complaint constitutes discrimination under the Missouri Human Rights Act (“MHRA”). 277 S.W.3d 659, 665 (Mo. banc 2009). However, in 2020, the Missouri Supreme Court recently held that an employee’s request for a reasonable accommodation did not constitute protected activity under Section 213.070.2 and thus did not suffice to support a claim of retaliation under the MHRA. See Li Lin v. Ellis, 594 S.W.3d 238, 244 (Mo. banc 2020). Our attorneys stay on top of these legal developments and nuances to ensure we provide you the best legal consultation or representation available.
To set up a consultation about potential retaliation in the workplace, please contact Mr. Dolley at (314) 645-4100 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. All legal consultations are held strictly confidential.