Fabricated EEO Charges: What’s A Business To Do?

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ALFA International Labor and Employment Update, Summer 2004

W. David Paxton, July 23, 2004


In a recent case out in the Tenth Circuit, two employees sued their former employer for retaliation after they were terminated for making allegations of harassment which the employer concluded were intentionally false. Renner-Wallace v. Cessna Aircraft Co., 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4134 (D. Kan.), aff’d 95 Fed. Appx. 967 (10th Cir. 2004). The district court granted the employer’s motion for summary judgment holding that the employees had failed to present any evidence that the proffered reason for the employees’ termination was a pretext for discrimination. This decision highlights the dilemma faced by employers who seek to respond to fabricated EEO claims in the face of an almost certain retaliation charge.

The Fourth Circuit has not had an occasion to address the exact situation presented in Renner-Wallace v. Cessna. This article considers how the Fourth Circuit is likely treat a retaliation claim based on a fabricated complaint of race, sex, religion, or national origin discrimination, focusing on the burden the court is likely to impose on employers defending such claims. This article also discusses the possible impact of the United States Supreme Court’s recent decision in Desert Palace v. Costa, 539 U.S. 90, 123 S. Ct. 2148 (2003), on the treatment of such claims.

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