October 6th, 2008, 10:19 pm
In order to establish a prima facie case of reprisal, a complainant must show that he or she engaged in activity protected by some state of Federal law. The employee must also demonstrate the employer or supervisor of the employer was aware of the prior protected activity, the employee was subjected to adverse actions or employment decisions, and that the adverse actions or employment decisions occurred within such a period of time that a causal connection between the protected activity and the adverse actions may be inferred. Hochstadt v. Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology, Inc., 425 F. Supp. 318, aff’d 545 F. 2d 222 (1st Cir. 1976). The employee “must show by a preponderance of the evidence that: (1) [he] engaged in a protected activity as an employee, (2) [he] was subsequently discharged from employment, and (3) there was a causal connection between the protected activity and the discharge.” Hoeppner v. Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Ctr. Inc., 31 F.3d 9, 14 (1st Cir.1994).
A claim concerning an employee complainting of illegal conduct or discrimination by his employer is one such protected activity. The employee must have a reasonable belief that the practice the employee is opposing violates Title VII or the Massachusetts General Laws. See Sias, 588 F.2d at 696; Bigge v. Albertsons, Inc., 894 F.2d 1497, 1501 (11th Cir.1990) (employee needs to show, in a case involving the opposition clause, that “he opposed an unlawful employment practice which he reasonably believed had occurred or was occurring”).
When an employee is opposing practices made unlawful by Title VII outside of the context of any administrative or judicial proceeding, such activity is only protected if the employee has a good-faith or reasonable, even if mistaken, belief that there is a Title VII violation against him or her or against a third party.
Furthermore, the employee’s claim of retaliation may succeed even if the underlying claim of harassment fails. Bain v. Springfield 678 N.E.2d 155; Abramian v. President & Fellows of Harvard College, 432 Mass. 107. “Complaining to management or filing an internal complaint of harassment,” or “meeting with co-workers to discuss how to stop sexual harassment in the work place can trigger the protections of c.151B.” Ritchie v. Dept. of State of Police, 60 Mass.App.Ct.655, 665 (2004).