Naming Employees In Required Legal Filings Could Be Evidence Of Unlawful Retaliation
Plaintiff filed an EEOC charge against her former employer. Because the employer was a public company, it was required to disclose “any material legal proceedings, including the principal parties, facts giving rise to the proceeding, and the relief sought” in its public SEC filings. The company twice disclosed plaintiff’s EEOC charge in its filings without disclosing her name. In its third SEC disclosure, however, the company identified everyone who had a pending charge or lawsuit against it by name. Concerning plaintiff, it reported that “[plaintiff’s name] filed a sexual harassment complaint with the [EEOC]. The claim is still under investigation by the EEOC, but [the company] believes the claims to be meritless and will vigorously defend itself.”
The EEOC found reasonable cause in connection with plaintiff’s original charge. The parties then resolved that charge in a settlement that did not include plaintiff’s being rehired. The company’s next SEC filing disclosed that the charge had been settled but did not give plaintiff’s name.
Plaintiff was unable to get another job. She filed a new EEOC charge, alleging that her former employer had retaliated against her by naming her in its SEC filings and characterizing her EEOC complaint as “meritless.” Plaintiff alleged that the SEC filing came up in the search results whenever anyone Googled her name and that a recruiter told her that she was “unemployable” as a result. After the EEOC found probable cause that the employer had retaliated against her, plaintiff filed suit in federal court in Wisconsin. The lower court dismissed the complaint on the ground that that plaintiff lacked evidence establishing the required causal link between her EEOC filing and the alleged act of retaliation.
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in Chicago, reversed and reinstated plaintiff’s claim. Greengrass v. International Monetary Systems Ltd., 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 464 (7th Cir. 2015). The appeals court ruling that plaintiff had “made out a prima facie case of retaliation by demonstrating that she engaged in a statutorily protected activity when she filed her EEOC charge, that [the employer] engaged in an adverse employment action when it listed her name in its SEC filings, and that there was sufficient evidence for a rational trier of fact to find that [the employer] listed her name because [plaintiff] filed the EEOC charge.”