Employers can be liable for discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act even if another co-worker is responsible for the discrimination. The First Circuit recently held that an employer can face liability when it terminates an employee whose job performance has been slandered by an angry co-worker’s intent on revenge. That co-worker does not have to be a supervisor of the employee.
In this case, the employer terminated an employee after receiving poor job performance reviews by that employee’s co-worker. That co-worker allegedly threatened to undercut the employee’s work and get him fired if he did not engage in a sexual relationship with her. The employer was also aware of the entire situation, and still chose to fire the employee.
The court prescribes a test with three factors to determine when an employer will face liability in this type of situation.
- The coworker must have acted, for discriminatory reasons, with the intent to cause the plaintiff's firing.
- The co-worker’s actions must have been the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s firing.
- The employer allowed the co-worker's acts to achieve their desired effect though it knew (or reasonably should have known) of the discriminatory motivation.
If you are an employer and need more advice on legally terminating an employee involved with an angry revenge-seeking co-worker, please contact an employment law attorney.
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