by Richard R. Hammar, J.D., LL.M., CPA

Employer “Retaliation” Against Victims of Discrimination

§ 8.16
Key Point 8-16. State and federal civil rights laws generally prohibit employers from retaliating against an employee for filing a discrimination claim or otherwise exercising rights provided by the law.

Many federal and state civil rights laws that ban discrimination in employment prohibit employers from "retaliating" against employees who oppose discriminatory practices or pursue claims of discrimination. To illustrate, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,[125] 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a). the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act,[126] 29 U.S.C. § 623(d). and the Americans with Disabilities Act[127] 42 U.S.C. § 12203. all prohibit employer retaliation.

Case studies
  • The Colorado Supreme Court threw out a lawsuit brought by a woman alleging that her church acted improperly and unlawfully when it dismissed her after she made complaints of sexual harassment against another minister. The woman alleged that her stepfather committed various acts of sexual assault against her when she was a minor. Her stepfather was a minister at the time, and later became president of his denomination. The woman pursued ministerial studies and was licensed as a minister. She later learned that her stepfather was harassing female church employees and parishioners in another church, and she reported this to denominational officers. In response, the stepfather filed charges with the denomination against the woman, claiming that her allegations were false and demanding a full investigation. After an investigation, denominational officers revoked the woman's license and denied her the opportunity to open a new church. The woman responded by filing a lawsuit against her stepfather, and her denomination, alleging several theories of liability including illegal retaliation by denominational officials in response to her charges of sexual harassment, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The court rejected this claim on the ground that it arose from the denomination's decision to revoke her minister's license. The court concluded that it was barred from resolving the woman's lawsuit on the basis of the First Amendment's free exercise and nonestablishment of religion clauses.[128] Van Osdol v. Vogt, 908 P.2d 402 (Colo. 1996).

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