A federal appeals court on Tuesday reinstated a retaliation lawsuit filed by a former Georgia Pacific LLC chief of staff who allegedly terminated shortly after revealing that she had provided a deposit in favor of employees in a case of pregnancy discrimination against her former employer.
Jacqueline Marie Patterson served as chief of staff for Atlanta-based Georgia Pacific when she testified in the lawsuit against her former employer, a health care system, according to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Marie Patterson vs. Georgia Pacific, LLC, Alabama River Cellulose, LLC; Timothy McIlwain et al.
When the Georgia Pacific HR director asked her if she had supported the employer in the deposit, she replied that she had testified “on behalf of the ladies,”; the verdict said. She was fired a week later for no reason, according to the verdict.
Patterson brought an action against Georgia Pacific at the U.S. District Court in Mobile, Alabama, accusing him of reprisals under Section VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The district court granted Georgia Pacific a summary judgment dismissing the case.
The lower court was set aside by a unanimous three-judge court of appeal. The district court concluded that under Title VII’s chief exemption, Patterson had not engaged in protected activity when she left the deposit because she had acted in relation to her company’s work responsibilities, the judgment stated.
But Title VII’s opposition clause protects all employees who have opposed illegal employment practices, the ruling said. “What matters is not the duties or title of the employee but the acts or conduct that caused the retaliation against her,” the panel said, rejecting the lower court’s decision on the matter.
Alternatively, the district court ruled that Ms. Patterson did not engage in protected activities because it did not affect her current employer.
“However, there is nothing in the anti – retaliation provision that allows an employer to take revenge on one of its employees for opposing an illegal employment practice from a previous employer,” the panel said, as it turned to the lower court and remanded the case. for further proceedings.
Lawyers in the case did not respond to a request for comment.