Naming EEOC Claimants In SEC Filings Is An Adverse Employment Action
In Greengrass v. International Monetary Systems Ltd., 13-2901(Seventh Circuit, Jan.12, 2015), Plaintiff sued her former employer alleging retaliation for filing an EEOC complaint. Plaintiff claimed that defendant retaliated by naming her in its annual SEC filings and casting her complaint as “meritless.” The district court granted summary judgment for defendant on the ground that plaintiff lacked evidence showing a causal link between her EEOC filing and the alleged retaliatory act.
Reversing, the Seventh Circuit decided that defendant engaged in an adverse employment action when it listed plaintiff’s name in its SEC filings. Naming EEOC claimants in publicly available SEC filings could dissuade a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination, which is “the essence of a materially adverse employment action.” As for evidence of discriminatory animus, the court cited emails evincing disdain for the EEOC process and expressing confidence that it could avoid a “large damages award” because, without the EEOC’s involvement, plaintiff “likely [would not] have the resources for a lengthy court fight.” The court also pointed to the forwarding of her EEOC complaint to an alleged harasser with the message, “Call me before you explode.” Further, the defendant’s multiple shifts in policy — from not including litigants’ names in the SEC filings, to listing them, and then not including them again—could lead a reasonable juror to find that defendant was “dissembling.”