In enacting Title VII, Congress decreed it unlawful for an employer to retaliate against a worker who either has charged it with a discriminatory policy or practice or has participated in a legal or administrative proceeding relating to one of its employment policies or practices. The law provides workers with protection from acts of employer retaliation committed against them while exercising their rights under Title VII, as well as under the Equal Pay Act. Once a worker has engaged in a protected activity—an action opposing an act of discrimination, such as filing a charge of discrimination, testifying on behalf of a fellow worker who has asserted a claim of discrimination, or participating in an investigation of alleged discriminatory conduct—an employer is barred from retaliating against that worker on account of her participation in that protected activity. Title VII states: “It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate against any of his employees or applicants for employment … because [she] has opposed … an unlawful practice … or because [she] has made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this subchapter.” 1 Employers who retaliate against employees in such circumstances subject themselves to liability for damages suffered by the worker as a consequence of such conduct.
Employer retaliation comes in varied forms, although employers tend to favor discharge over other options, which was the case for Paula Donnellon, who worked for Fruehauf Corporation first as a secretary and later as office man-