We’ve been looking in our last couple posts at the issue of workplace retaliation and protections in the state of Minnesota for workers who’ve been subjected to retaliation on the job. Protections also exist at the federal level, as well, as we’ve noted.
One of the challenging aspects of retaliation cases is that it is not always easy to prove that an employer acted with a retaliatory motive. At the federal level, at least, there are three elements that need to be proven in retaliation claims: that the plaintiff engaged in protected activity; that the employer took adverse action against the plaintiff; and that there was a causal connection between the protected activity and the adverse action. What makes proving the causal connection a challenge is that it is rare for employers to leave behind clear evidence that they acted with a retaliatory motive. The same problem exists in proving discriminatory intent.
Because there is rarely direct evidence—the smoking gun, so to speak—of retaliatory motive, plaintiffs typically have to rely on circumstantial evidence to make their case. The circumstances of each case vary, of course, so the types of evidence available will vary considerably. One important issue to consider is the truthfulness of the employer’s purported reason for taking adverse action. If the evidence calls into question the truthfulness of the employer’s stated motive, this needs to be highlighted.
Also important to look at is how other workers who have not engaged in protected activity have been treated and to compare that with how the plaintiff was treated. In some cases, evidence that adverse action was taken soon after the plaintiff engaged in protected activity can serve to call into question the employer’s purported motive.
Those who hope to make a strong case for retaliation should always work with an experienced attorney. Doing so will ensure they are able to build the strongest case possible and achieve the best possible results in their case.