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In Employment Discrimination and Retaliation Claims, Timing is (Almost) Everything

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You are at work. Out of nowhere, your supervisor starts haranguing you over a minor mistake in a report. You think, “odd,” but carry on with your day. The next day, you make a perfectly reasonable supply request and your supervisor curtly denies you. The following few days, things are calm - nothing out of the ordinary. However, the very next Friday your supervisor terminates you without any explanation for the decision. What are you to do?

The first thing you should do, even before you call an employment attorney, is draft a timeline. No, not necessarily dating all the way back to the start of your employment, but, at least, retracing your steps at work in the days leading to the mysterious criticism of your report.

Why is the timeline important? Because discrimination and retaliation claims almost always depend upon showing causation, i.e. a “causal nexus” between the termination decision-maker knowing the employee’s protected status (think pregnancy) or activity (think whistleblowing), and the termination ultimately imposed. Since employers are rarely candid about their reasons for terminating employees, a timeline can help “connect the dots” identifying, potentially, an unlawful trigger causing the termination.

In the fact pattern above, creating the timeline might remind you, for example, of the pregnancy disclosure that you made just days before your supervisor’s criticism of your report, or remind of the discussion that you had with your supervisor about your concern that a missing line item on the report could draw the attention of the IRS.

If you have a question about a possible discrimination or retaliation claim, please contact one of our employment attorneys at Douglas, Leonard and Garvey. Call our office for a free consultation (after you create your timeline 😊) at (603) 288-1403 or fill out our online contact form.