5 Examples of Workplace Retaliation

By Tom McKinney
NJ Employment Attorney

Tesla Employee Files Lawsuit Claiming Retaliation After Speaking Up About Working Conditions

A high-profile example of alleged workplace retaliation is that of a former Tesla employee. Carlos Ramirez was Tesla’s director of environmental health, safety, and sustainability until he was fired in June 2017. He has now filed a lawsuit claiming he was fired in retaliation for speaking up about unsafe working conditions at Tesla and underreported accidents. He says he objected to illegal activity at the company, as well, which he thinks was also part of the reason for his termination.

Furthermore, Ramirez says he faced harassment based on his race and national origin as a Mexican-American and the company did nothing about it. Tesla says it was the other way around—they say he harassed his colleagues, specifically female ones, bullied people and used inappropriate language.

Tesla says the complaints about Ramirez came from at least a dozen employees.

Backing up Ramirez, however, is a report from Reveal, of the Center for Investigative Reporting. The reporting cited 5 former employees in Ramirez’s division (environment, health, and safety) who said that Tesla cares more about speed and style than it does about the safety in its factories, where injuries are underreported, they allege. Tesla says the reporting from Reveal is an effort from an “extremist” organization to promote unionization.

Former NOPD Employee Believes She Was Retaliated Against For Sexual Harassment Claim

Former homicide detective Shannon Reeves believes she was retaliated against for speaking up about being sexually harassed by her colleague. She reported it to an NOPD watchdog group when she didn’t think the allegations were being taken seriously enough by internal investigators at the NOPD.

The NOPD said she was fired because she was medically unable to perform her duties. Although she had been suffering from migraines and was often missing work, she was two months away from the date at which she could claim her pension and retire and the NOPD terminated her before that could happen, a move which Reeves believes to have been deliberate.

Additionally, the department did not reach out to Reeves’ therapist, who could have told them about Reeves’ condition and medical issues, despite the fact that they say she was terminated for medical reasons.

Court Upholds Ruling In Whistleblower Case Of Ship Captain

Former Horizon Lines Captain John Loftus made multiple complaints about safety violations on his ship to the U.S. Coast Guard and the American Board of Shipping. He was then demoted to chief mate, a position his attorney said he could not realistically accept, because the crew would never respect him after the demotion. The attorney added that no demotion like that had ever taken place in the company’s history. Loftus’ employer said the reasoning for the demotion was the injuries suffered by a chief mate, which the company claimed Loftus bore responsibility for as captain of the ship at the time.

The Administrative Review Board of the Department of Labor recently upheld the Administrative Law Judge’s ruling that the company did not present clear and convincing evidence showing that they would have fired Loftus even if he had not reported the ship’s safety violations. Loftus received a $1.1 million payout from the initial ruling.

Judges Orders New Jersey Ag To Pay Retaliation Settlement To Detective Who Spoke Up About Sexual Harassment

Detective Keith Stopko alleged that after alerting superiors about sexual harassment allegations against lieutenant John Torrey, he was retaliated against, getting placed on “less-desirable assignments” and on a “promotion backlist.” His supervisor allegedly was responsible for these setbacks, and Stopko claimed the Deputy Attorney General notified him that he should “make amends with” his supervisor.

In a settlement with Stopko, the state agreed to pay him $1.3 million. However, recently, they attempted to add terms not agreed upon in the original settlement, including one that all $1.3 million would be subject to tax instead of the $300,000 of back pay which was the original term of the settlement. They sought to get other stipulations added, as well, one of which would affect Stopko’s ability to possess a firearm, but a Superior Court Judge has now ordered the Attorney General to comply with the terms originally reached in the settlement.

The New Jersey Law Journal reported that Stopko’s original law suit claimed, under the Conscientious Employee Protection Act, that retaliation from colleagues caused Stopko “to suffer depression, embarrassment, humiliation, mental anguish, diminished earning capacity and constructive or actual firing.”

Colorado State Professor Alleges Retaliation In Lawsuit For Reporting Sexual Harassment

Colorado State University Professor Christina Boucher filed a lawsuit against CSU alleging retaliation after she reported sexual harassment from a colleague. She claimed that both she and her husband were forced to resign after she alleged the harassment, and that “her ability to receive tenure was compromised.”

The Collegian reported that when Boucher reported to the department head about allegedly being harassed by a fellow faculty member when he stared sexually at her chest and back, she received negative evaluations from the Computer Science department head, which had been positive before the allegation. The department head also allegedly told Ben Hur, her alleged harasser, about the allegations. Ben Hur was then allegedly allowed in on discussions of her tenure, which he recommended against, and he also stopped inviting her to meetings which involved her own work.

Most recently in this case, CSU filed a motion for summary judgment to dismiss the case, and Boucher’s legal team responded in a filing of their own, stating that CSU’s motion left out facts of the case. The jury trial for the case is set for August 20, 2018.








About the Author
Tom McKinney is a skilled employment law attorney with New Jersey Employment Lawyers LLC. He has a track record of success in all areas of employment law, including sexual harassment, discrimination, harassment, wrongful discharge, whistleblower claims and hostile work environment claims. Besides litigation, Tom handles severance agreements and severance package reviews/negotiations for over 100 people each year. If you have any questions regarding this blog, contact Tom here.