Court: HR Complaints Protected Right


Complaints made to Human Resources executives are considered protected activity, according to a recent ruling by the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

On Monday, the Cincinnati court ruled in Scott Trujillo v. Henniges Automotive Sealing Systems North America Inc. that an employee can discuss an associate’s racist remarks and still have protection under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In 2008, Trujillo was working as the director of global finance for the New Haven, Mo.-based Henniges, when he spoke with a HR vice president about an executive vice president making “inappropriate or derogatory things about other races.” The next week, Trujillo was fired.

Trujillo subsequently filed a lawsuit, claiming the termination was in response to his complaints to HR.

Lawyers for Henniges claimed that Trujillo made other comments before approaching the HR vice president, in a “lighthearted way.”

In a 2-1 decision, the appellate court found that Trujillo’s comments to the HR director were a protected activity under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“We have repeatedly held that complaints to human resources personnel regarding potential violations of Title VII constitute protected activity for purposes of establishing a prima-facie case of retaliation,” wrote the judges in the opinion.

More information on the decision can be found at the Workforce blog and BuisnessInsurance.com.

Image credit: jirsak / 123RF Stock Photo

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