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By July 1, 2010No Comments

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (covering Connecticut, New York, and Vermont) has ruled that an employer’s deliberate failure to investigate a complaint of discrimination does not constitute a stand-alone act of retaliation. In Fincher v. Depository Trust and Cleaning Corp., the plaintiff alleged that she complained to a human resources manager about what she believed was racially biased treatment toward black employees in her department. The plaintiff claimed that the human resources manager told her that he was not going to open up an investigation of her claim of race discrimination. The plaintiff resigned and filed claims under federal, state, and local laws for retaliation.

The Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment in favor of the employer, finding that the employer’s alleged failure to investigate discrimination was not in itself a “materially adverse action” which could subject the employer to retaliation liability. The court noted that under the seminal case Burlington N. & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. White, “a plaintiff must show that a reasonable employee would have found the challenged action materially adverse, which in this context means it well might have dissuaded a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination.” The court held that an employee’s knowledge that her employer has declined to investigate her complaint does not ordinarily constitute a threat of further harm.

Above articles courtesy of Worklaw® Network firm Shawe Rosenthal.