Employee can prove retaliation with less evidence

An employee who claimed her employer fired her in retaliation for complaining about gender and age discrimination can prove her case with less evidence than if she had sued for age discrimination itself, a federal appeals court has ruled. After 22 years with Xerox and being named one of the company’s top eight employees in the country, the employee was fired. She claimed she was fired by a new supervisor who immediately began making negative decisions about her because of her age and gender. She sued Xerox under Title VII, a federal anti-discrimination law that prohibits an employer from retaliating against a worker who has filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

At trial, the jury was told that if her age and gender were “motivating factors” in firing her, then she proved retaliation, even if the employer had other motives for getting rid of her. The jury awarded her $67,000 in damages. Xerox appealed, arguing that the jury should have been told that in order to win, the employee had to prove that the employer would not have fired her but for her EEOC complaint. This would be the test in an age discrimination case under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, where employees must show that they wouldn’t have been discriminated against but for their age. But the court said that the test for retaliation under Title VII is easier than the test for age discrimination itself. Therefore, the employee won.

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