Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Chris Lazarini provided insight on a case in which a former commodities broker claimed her former employers retaliated against her for filing a civil rights complaint by causing her new employer to terminate her. The Court denied the Defendants’ motion to dismiss because the Plaintiff met the four criteria for stating a retaliation claim:

  1. she participated in a protected activity, 
  2. Defendants knew of the protected activity, 
  3. she was subjected to an adverse employment action and 
  4. a causal connection existed between the protected activity and the adverse employment action.

Chris provided the analysis for Securities Litigation Commentator (SLC). The full text of the analysis is below and used with permission from the publication. If you would like to receive additional content from the SLC, please visit the SLC website to sign up for the newsletter.

Shakerdge vs. Tradition Finance Services, Inc. & TFS Energy, LLC, No. 3:16-cv-01940 (D. Conn., 9/26/17) 

To state a retaliation claim, a plaintiff must show (1) she participated in a protected activity, (2) defendant knew of the protected activity, (3) she was subjected to an adverse employment action and (4) a causal connection existed between the protected activity and the adverse employment action. 

Plaintiff filed this lawsuit alleging that her former employers (1) discriminated against her based on her gender and (2) retaliated against her for filing a civil rights complaint by causing her new employer to terminate her. In December 2010, Plaintiff joined Defendants as an energy commodities broker. She alleged that she was the only woman on the trading floor, was regularly subjected to degrading, sexist and racist conduct by her male counterparts and was physically and verbally harassed by her immediate supervisor and others in firm management. She also alleged that the firm failed to support her in maintaining client relationships, pressured her to relinquish her larger accounts, reduced her pay and finally terminated her after she complained to management about the alleged discrimination. Six months later, she filed a complaint with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (“CHRO”). Around the same time, she accepted what she believed to be a firm offer to work as an energy commodities broker for another firm. The new firm registered her, but after her first day on the job, told her the offer had been rescinded. She alleged that an employee at the new firm told her she was fired because she filed the CHRO complaint against Defendants.

Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiff’s retaliation claims, arguing that they were conclusory and failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Defendants also moved to dismiss Plaintiff’s request for a jury trial, arguing that Plaintiff waived that right under the terms of her employment agreement. The Court denies the motions. With respect to the retaliation claims, the Court finds that Plaintiff participated in a protected activity when she filed her CHRO complaint and concludes that Defendant knew of the filing because it offered no contrary evidence. The Court rejects Defendants’ argument that a true statement cannot give rise to retaliation claims; instead, a true statement, offered in retaliation, may qualify as a retaliatory action.

The Court also rejects Defendant’s argument that the claims fail because Plaintiff did not specify dates, people or actions to support her claims. Accepting Plaintiff’s allegations as true and drawing all reasonable inferences in her favor, it is plausible that Defendant sought to blacklist Plaintiff and had some role in her dismissal from the new firm. On the jury trial issue, the Court dismisses the motion as premature, stating that it is without the factual information necessary to whether the waiver was given knowingly and voluntarily. 

Defendant did not move to dismiss Plaintiff’s discrimination claims. Nor did Defendant seek dismissal of the retaliation claims by offering arguments that its actions were legitimate and non-retaliatory.