Classifying Former Employee as a New Hire Can Provide Basis for Retaliation Claim

Posted on June 6, 2014

Recently, Judge Payne of the Eastern District of Virginia ruled that a plaintiff’s claim that he was retaliated against when he was rehired by his employer after engaging in protected activity, but reassigned to a new site forty-seven miles away from his original sites without the supervisory responsibilities he previously held and was classified as a new hire. Chamblee v. Old Dominion Security Company, et al., No. 3:13cv820 (April 11, 2014).

Darrell Chamblee was employed as a security guard with Old Dominion Security Company (“ODS”) at Mary Washington Hospital from January 2008 through May 24, 2011. During his employment, Chamblee had received regular promotions and reached the rank of lieutenant. In March of 2011, ODS announced a number of structural promotions and changes at Mary Washington Hospitals, although it had not posted any promotion or job opportunities. Chamblee complained to the Vice President of ODS that he had not been given the opportunity to apply for the position of captain and that he had been passed over when a while female had been promoted. Chamblee and the Vice President met about the issues, but no investigation was initiated. Chamblee thus filed a race and discrimination charge with the EEOC in early April of 2011.

In May of 2011, there was an incident where Chamblee allegedly did report an incident during training as required. Chamblee claimed that he did not report the incident because the site involved was to within his administrative or operational control and that the white female who had been promoted instead of him had provided false information about the incident, but he was terminated on the spot during a meeting with his supervisor about the matter. In June, Chamblee filed a second charge with the EEOC claiming retaliatory termination.

Subsequently, following Chamblee’s filing for unemployment compensation, ODS rehired him, but placed him in a position forty-seven miles away from Mary Washington Hospital without any of the supervisory responsibilities he previously had and classified him as a new hire. Chamblee elected to terminate his employment in July 2011. Chamblee then filed a lawsuit against ODS, his supervisor, and the Vice President of ODS which included a claim for disparate impact under Title VII and a claim for retaliation under Title VII.

The defendants moved to dismiss the claims against them under Rule 12(b)(6). The district court dismissed Chamblee’s claim for disparate impact, finding that because he had not satisfactorily alleged in his EEOC charge that an ODS practice or policy had disparate impact, he had not exhausted his administrative remedies over this claim. Chamblee, p. 14.

The district court also found that Chamblee had not properly stated a claim for retaliatory termination. Although he had sufficiently alleged that he had engaged in protected activity (complaining to the Vice President about the lack of opportunity to apply for a promotion because of his race and gender and filing an EEOC charge) and that his termination was an adverse action, because his supervisor was the decisionmaker with regard to his termination and there was no allegation that he knew of either the informal or formal complaints regarding discrimination, there was not sufficient evidence of a causal link between Chamblee’s protected activity and his termination. Id., p. 18.

However, the district court found, Chamblee had properly stated a claim for retaliation based upon his reassignment. His reassignment to a new site forty-seven miles away from his original site, removal of supervisory responsibilities, and classification of him as a new hire constituted materially adverse actions. Id., p. 16. Additionally, because Chamblee asserted that the Vice President of the company knew of the protected activity and was also the decisionmaker with regard to his rehire and reclassification, the Complaint adequately stated a claim for retaliatory reassignment. Id., p. 19.

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