Can I get my manager fired for lying about discriminating against me?
Employment Discrimination Attorney Answer: Yes.
Unfortunately, there are lots of bad bosses out there. Some bosses bully their employees and even engage in discrimination. Here at Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, our employment discrimination and wrongful termination attorneys represent a lot of employees who have a bad boss, a racist manager, or sexist supervisor. But the boss in the case I am writing about today had some audacity.
Today’s case, Anderson v. Emory Healthcare Inc., 2022 WL 3099342, comes out of Georgia and was decided by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
Nazarie Anderson was Nursing Specialty Director of Medical Services at Emory University Hospital Midtown. As a manager, Anderson was responsible for making nurses’ schedules, managing the nursing staff, and working with unit directors on staffing and personnel issues.
In March 2015, Stephani Gutierrez began working as a nurse for Emory. Gutierrez is a Jehovah’s Witness. Because of her religion, Gutierrez cannot work on Sundays or administer blood products. Gutierrez met with her immediate supervisor, Shirley McArthur, multiple times to discuss accommodations for her religion. Then, on July 13, 2015, Gutierrez held a meeting with both McArthur and Anderson to discuss accommodating her religion by not scheduling her to work on Sundays. McArthur and Anderson refused to grant the accommodation. (Best Law Read: Can I Get Off Work As A Religious Accommodation?; Religious Discrimination: What Does Reasonable Accommodation Mean?; Can I Get A Religious Dress Accommodation At Work?).
On July 14, 2015, Gutierrez made a report to Emory’s internal compliance hotline that McArthur and Anderson were discriminating against her. Gutierrez also filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). (Best Law Read: Don’t File With The EEOC On Your Own; It’s Bad To File With The EEOC Without A Lawyer; Read This Before Filing An EEOC Charge).
On July 22, 2015, Gutierrez resigned.
Emory conducted an internal investigation, in which Anderson adamantly denied that she had ever threatened to terminate Gutierrez’s employment if she refused to work on Sundays. Anderson then assisted Emory in their defense from Gutierrez’s charge of discrimination. Well, sure enough, in April 2018, Gutierrez provided the EEOC with a recording of Anderson threatening to terminate Gutierrez’s employment if she refused to work on Sundays. On July 2, 2018, Emory terminated Anderson’s employment for violating their anti-discrimination policy and for lying in the investigation.
Here is the kicker: Anderson sued Emory claiming wrongful termination, saying that they retaliated against her for participating in the EEOC’s investigation. It takes a lot of nerve for the manager who committed the discrimination to sue the employer for disciplining her!
What is a protected activity?
Workplace Retaliation Lawyer Answer: Recently, our employment discrimination lawyers blogged about retaliation claims. (Best Law Read: Why Retaliation Is The Easiest Employment Claim; Why Reporting Sexual Harassment Is Critical; What Happens If My Job Retaliates Against Me For My Reporting Wage Violations?).
Gutierrez sued for religion discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”). Title VII protects from discrimination based on designated protected classes, including race/color, religion, gender/sex (including pregnancy and LGBTQ+ status), national origin, and disability. Importantly for this case, Title VII also protects from retaliation for opposing discrimination or because a person “has made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under” Title VII. Anderson argued that Emory was retaliating against her for participating in Emory’s internal investigation and in the EEOC’s investigation.
The Court did not buy Anderson’s argument. For one, the Court noted that Title VII protects participation in an EEOC investigation but not participation in an internal investigation by the employer. The Court pointed out that Anderson’s participation in the EEOC investigation was limited and that the false statement Anderson cited as a reason for the termination was made during the internal investigation, not the EEOC investigation.
Can a supervisor be disciplined for lying in an EEOC investigation?
Best Wrongful Termination Lawyer Answer: Surprisingly, the Court in Anderson v. Emory Healthcare did not provide a clear answer to this. However, reading between the lines of the decision, it seems like the Court probably would have still ruled against Anderson even if she had made her false statement in the EEOC investigation instead of Emory’s internal investigation.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit declined to decide on the question of whether lying in an EEOC investigation is a protected activity: “[W]hile false statements made in the context of an EEOC charge may be protected under the participation clause, false statements made in connection with an internal investigation conducted prior to and separately from an EEOC charge are not.” Id. (Emphasis added). However, the next part of the decision seemed to provide a basis for the Court to rule against Anderson even if false statements to the EEOC were protected.
Specifically, the Eleventh Circuit looked at the next step of the analysis. As our employment lawyers have explained in previous blogs after an employee makes a prima facie case of discrimination or retaliation, the employer then gets a chance to show that they had a “legitimate, non-discriminatory reason” for the termination or other adverse action. (Best Law Read: How Do You Win A Discrimination At Work Lawsuit?); Emory explained that they terminated Anderson’s employment because they believed that she violated their antidiscrimination policy and lied in their investigation. The Court found that this was a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason.
After an employer presents a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the termination, the employer then has a chance to show that the reason for the termination was pretextual. (Best Law Read: Employment Discrimination Question: What Is Pretext?; How Do You Prove Causation In Wrongful Termination Cases?). This means that the employee has to show that the reason the employer gave for the termination was not the real reason. Anderson failed to provide sufficient evidence of this. Therefore, the Court found in Emory’s favor.
Anderson’s attempt to sue her employer for terminating her for discriminating against Gutierrez took some guts, but it did not work. The Court saw right through it.
What should I do if my boss discriminates against me?
Best Employment Lawyer Answer: If you believe that your employer has discriminated against you or retaliated against you, the first thing you should do is to call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation. (Read: What is the Spitz No Fee Guarantee?; Why Having Skilled Employment Attorneys Is Critical). Call our lawyers in Ohio, Michigan, and North Carolina to get help now. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm and its experienced attorneys are dedicated to protecting employees’ rights and solving employment disputes.
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