According to government statistics, in the last ten years the number of retaliation charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") have increased by 33%, while other charges filed with the EEOC have only increased 2.5%. Under federal law (Title VII), retaliation occurs when an employee is fired or has his/her terms and conditions of work changed as a result of making a formal complaint of discrimination. Title VII also protects those individuals who testify, assist or participate in an investigation of illegal activity or those who oppose unlawful employment practices.
In a recent United States Supreme Court case, CBOCS West, Inc. v. Humphries, 128 S. Ct. 1951 (2008), an employee alleged he was terminated for complaining to management that a black co-worker had been fired for racial reasons which amounted to racial discrimination. The Court concluded 7-2 that if this allegation were true it was actionable and that retaliation claims are included under 42 U.S.C. § 1981.
The important point in this case is that when filing a Title VII race discrimination charge, always include a retaliation charge as well because even if the race discrimination charge is unsuccessful, the retaliation charge may succeed and if it does, there will not be any caps on the liability to the employer.