Retaliation Claim Under Title VII Denied, Employer Had Legitimate Reasons for Pay Decrease

by Joseph C. Maya on Feb. 20, 2024

Employment 

Summary: In a U.S. District Court case, a female employee’s claim of retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was dismissed because the employer provided legitimate, nondiscriminatory justification for its adverse employment action.[1] The female employee brought action against her employer, alleging unlawful discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964[2] and the equivalent state discrimination law[3]. Specifically, plaintiff alleges she suffered unlawful discrimination, based upon her sex, alleging she was subjected to a hostile work environment and suffered retaliation for complaining about the same.[4]

Case Background

The female employee began working for HUB as a security officer in September of 2010. Prior to beginning active duty, she underwent HUB’s orientation and training process, which included an orientation on HUB’s sexual harassment policy. The plaintiff was initially assigned to the BP worksite in Venice, Louisiana, but was subsequently transferred to another BP site in Houma.  The female employee alleged that between October 3, 2010 and October 8, 2010, she was harassed by another employee, Carl Martin.

She testified that during that period, Martin, on numerous occasions made sexual advances toward her, inappropriate gestures and remarks about her body.[5]  She further alleged, in one of these instances, Martin grabbed her I.D. card around her neck and touched her breasts. He then told her to look at his pants, where there was a noticeable erection.[6]

On October 7, 2010, the plaintiff reported the harassment to supervisors and requested she be moved to a day shift position away from Martin. After a subsequent meeting two days later, she again requested to be transferred, but was told a different position was not immediately available. The employee was put on paid leave of absence and did not work from October 9, 2010 to October 12, 2010.

HUB had a need for a security officer on the day shift in Houma, and on October 12 she was placed in that position.[7]  The pay rate for the day position was $12.00 per hour, while the pay rate on the Venice BP job was $13.00 per hour. While the plaintiff initially was placed at a $12.00 rate, the Company, upon discovery of this, applied a $13.00 rate to her time in Houma, and she was paid the difference.

Anti-Retaliation Under Title VII

The anti-retaliation provision of Title VII prohibits an employer from “discriminating against an employee or job applicant because that individual opposed any practice made unlawful by Title VII.”[8]  To establish a prima facie case of retaliation, a plaintiff must show: (1) she engaged in activity protected under Title VII; (2) she suffered an adverse employment action; and (3) a causal link exists between the protected activity and the adverse employment action. In order to satisfy the second element, “a plaintiff must show that a reasonable employee would have found the challenged action materially adverse, which in this context means it might have dissuaded a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination.”[9] 

If the plaintiff successfully presents a prima facie case, the burden shifts to the employer to provide a “legitimate, non-retaliatory reason for the adverse employment action.”[10]

The Court’s Decision

In analyzing the employee’s claim for retaliation, the Court held that the employer had provided a legitimate, non-discriminatory justification for its actions.  During the four day period the employee did not work she received compensation.  Rather than being in a situation where she was suspended without pay in retaliation for her charges of sexual harassment, she was not working because the company was attempting to accommodate her request to be moved to a daytime shift.

Regarding her temporary reduction in pay when she was transferred to a daytime shift, the Court was satisfied that it was a minor oversight due to different work locations, and the fact that it was rectified once discovered demonstrated that it was not intentional discrimination in retaliation for her complaints.  Therefore, the Court dismissed her retaliation claim because the employer had demonstrated a legitimate, nondiscriminatory purpose for its actions.

[1] Claiborne v. HUB Enterprises, Inc., 6:11-CV-1552, 2013 WL 265237 (W.D. La. Jan. 23, 2013)

[2] 42 U.S.C. § 2000e

[3] La. R.S. 23:301,

[4] Claiborne v. HUB Enterprises, Inc., 2013 WL 265237

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway Co., v. White, 548 U.S. 53, 56, (2006)

[9] Id. at 68.

[10] Hernandez v. Yellow Transp., Inc., 670 F.3d 644, 651, 657 (2012).


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