Many people associate employment discrimination solely with ill treatment based on certain personal characteristics like age or race. While this is often the case, it is also employment discrimination to fire or otherwise subject an employee to negative actions because of that employee’s complaints to human resources or other authorities. This is the issue in the case of Laura Serrano, who was fired from her job as a Greenville deputy over an undisclosed “personal matter.” The case is instructive for anyone who might have experienced similar treatment in the workplace.
Was There Protected Activity?
Serrano was terminated from the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office in November 2018, ostensibly for misconduct. However, the allegations only came after she had filed a complaint against her supervisor over an internal matter. Serrano contested the allegation of untruthfulness, eventually winning a hearing on the merits. While the specific details have not been made public as of this writing, Serrano’s attorney has stated that she intends to file a lawsuit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for both retaliation and an allegedly hostile work environment.
Every employee has the right to engage in what is known as protected activity. Protected activity is generally any type of activity related to being free from harassment, with examples including requesting accommodation for sincerely held religious beliefs or disability, participating in whistleblowing proceedings, and refusing to participate in discriminatory policies. If Serrano had complained about behavior or policy to her supervisor, it may have constituted protected activity, which would make her firing illegal.
Context Is Important
While interfering with protected activity might be grounds for a claim of retaliation, it is important to keep in mind that the mere existence of protected activity is not an automatic presumption of bad faith on the part of your employer. If, for example, an employee is fired because they failed to carry out the required objectives in their job, it would not be unlawful because there was a non-discriminatory reason for the firing.
In Serrano’s case, while not all the information is known, it is noteworthy that her law enforcement credentials were renewed in recent weeks with no opposition. There was also a hearing from the Criminal Justice Academy General Counsel finding that there was no merit to the allegations of misconduct against her. This does not invalidate the allegations of hostile work environment. Instead, it may lend credence to her allegations that she was forced out for inaccurate reasons.
Call An Experienced Attorney Today
It can be difficult to navigate the complex process of filing suit over employment discrimination. While Deputy Serrano appears to be moving past allegations of misconduct that appear suspect, things in your case may require an experienced employment discrimination attorney to keep them moving. Attorney A. Christopher Potts has experience in these types of cases and will work to help give you the best possible chance to settle yours appropriately. Contact Hitchcock & Potts today to request a consulation.