Thursday, November 3, 2011

Unsubstantiated allegations cannot create protected activity (at least according to one Ohio court)

In Veal v. Upreach LLC (10/20/11), an employee claimed that her employer terminated her in retaliation for her contacting the EEOC. The court of appeals, however, did not believe that the employee had presented any evidence in support of her claim that she had engaged in protected activity:

Appellant did not specifically allege or present evidence establishing that she was engaged in a protected activity…. Her complaint and memorandum opposing summary judgment merely alleged that she was terminated after Pitts [her direct supervisor] saw her reading a book on employee rights and overheard her placing a call to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission during work hours. However, appellant offered nothing to substantiate these claims, nor did she explain how her allegations amounted to conduct protected….

It is refreshing to read an opinion in which a court refused to take a plaintiff merely at her word by requiring some corroboration before sending the case to a jury. Having said that, however, this case—at least in Ohio state courts—is very much the exception, not the rule.