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September 24, 2018
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In Gogel v. Kia Motors Mfg. of Georgia, Inc. the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Eleventh Circuit recently stated that a human resources employee’s actions in assisting another employee to file discrimination charges “in a reasonable manner” were protected activity under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Andrea Gogel, an employee in Kia Motors Manufacturing of Georgia, Inc.’s HR department, claimed to have personally experienced and heard a myriad of complaints from employees who felt discriminated against based on their gender and national origin. Gogel attempted to use her employer’s internal reporting process for years without success. It was at this stage that she provided a co-worker with assistance in contacting an attorney to assist her with filing an EEOC charge. This action would later lead to her termination from Kia Motors. Gogel sued Kia Motors for gender and national origin discrimination and retaliation under Title VII. Although a district court granted summary judgment in favor of Kia Motors, Gogel appealed to the Eleventh Circuit.
The Eleventh Circuit stated that when a human resource employee helps another employee file a discrimination charge in a reasonable manner, the human resource employee is entitled to protection under Title VII. To determine reasonableness, the court uses a case-by-case balancing test that reviews the manner in which the employee opposes the policy. There, the court stated that Gogel’s attempt to use the internal reporting process prior to assisting her co-worker with filing a discrimination charge with the EEOC was a reasonable display of opposition to an allegedly discriminatory practice. Employers are well advised to be mindful of any employee expressing their hostility to a purportedly discriminatory employment practice, as they may be protected from retaliation under Title VII.
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Disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance concerning employment-related issues. It is presented with the understanding that ManagEase is not engaged in rendering any legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please contact the services of your own legal adviser.
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