Proving an employer has retaliated against you can be quite complex. Every piece of correspondence can come under scrutiny, and the more supporting evidence you have, the better. Even something as seemingly insignificant as the use of an emoji could impact your legal options.
A thumbs-up has profound implications
One recent case highlights just how much a single interaction can change the trajectory of a retaliation case. After several team members resigned, blaming the plaintiff’s management, she faced a negative performance review and was given a choice: improve via a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP), demotion or termination with severance.
When she raised age discrimination concerns, management swiftly changed her options, removing the PIP. This shift, particularly a text message from her supervisor suggesting a “new plan” with a company leader’s thumbs-up emoji in response, became key evidence in her retaliation lawsuit.
Although courts initially dismissed her age discrimination claim, the Eighth Circuit found the text exchange indicative of retaliation. They reversed the summary judgment, allowing her to pursue her claim in court.
Important takeaways for Michigan workers
This case is a stark reminder to all workers that retaliation is not just about the timing of an employer’s action but also about the context and manner in which company leaders respond.
Informal communication, such as text messages and emojis, can become part of a case, and even casual conversations through texts or chats can reveal misconduct. Employers should take every legitimate concern about workplace issues seriously.
Workers should also be aware of their rights and the subtle forms retaliation can take, including sudden changes in employment terms following a complaint.
For employees in Michigan and elsewhere, it’s crucial to understand that you have the right to speak up against discrimination without facing punitive measures.