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Employee Fired for Comments Made at EEOC Mediation — Retaliation?

Published by on August 27, 2013

Michael Benes filed an EEOC charge for sex discrimination against his employer, A.B. Data, and the parties agreed to mediation. At the EEOC mediation, the parties were in separate rooms. Upon receiving a settlement proposal that he thought too low, Benes stormed into the room used by his employer’s representatives and said loudly: “You can […]

Michael Benes filed an EEOC charge for sex discrimination against his employer, A.B. Data, and the parties agreed to mediation. At the EEOC mediation, the parties were in separate rooms. Upon receiving a settlement proposal that he thought too low, Benes stormed into the room used by his employer’s representatives and said loudly: “You can take your proposal and shove it up your ass and fire me and I’ll see you in court.” A.B. Data obliged and terminated Benes an hour later.  What result in the subsequent retaliation lawsuit?  More after the break.

The Seventh Circuit upheld summary judgment for the employer in Benes v. A.B. Data, Ltd. Case No. 13-1166 (7th Cir. July 26, 2013).

Benes subsequently dropped his discrimination claim and sued for retaliation under Title VII. A.B. Data moved for summary judgment, arguing that Benes had been fired for disrupting the mediation, not because he filed a charge with the EEOC. The district court agreed and granted summary judgment.

The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment, finding that Benes had been fired for misconduct during the mediation, not for making or supporting a charge of discrimination. Section 2000e–3(a) does not establish a privilege to misbehave in mediation, but only bans retaliation “because [a person] has opposed any practice made an unlawful employment practice by this subchapter, or because he has made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this subchapter.” The Court stated that if the company would have fired an employee who behaved like Benes at work, then it was entitled to do so for the same conduct at mediation. Mr. Benes “sabotaged” the mediation, which the Court equated to barging into the boss’s office and shouting at him – which undoubtedly should result in discipline.

A copy of the Benes decision can be found here.

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