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Recent case illustrates how employers can illegally retaliate against workers even after they’re terminated

The U.S. District Court in Massachusetts recently ruled in favor of John H. Ray III, a former associate of the law firm Ropes & Gray, on his retaliation claims against the law firm. After Ray filed a charge against the firm with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging race discrimination, partners with the firm refused to provide him with recommendation letters. Ray needed these recommendation letters as he searched for another job because the firm had refused to make him a partner and, as a result, terminated his employment. The EEOC found that Ropes & Gray had not discriminated against Ray on the basis of his race. However, the EEOC did find that the firm retaliated against Ray because he filed a charge of discrimination against it. After the EEOC made its findings, Ropes & Gray provided the legal media website Above the Law with the EEOC’s finding on the discrimination charge–but not the retaliation charge–seemingly for the purpose of depicting Ray as someone who filed a frivolous complaint.

The court held that a jury could reasonably conclude that Ropes & Gray retaliated against Ray when (a) the partners in the firm decided that they would no longer provide Ray with letters of recommendation and (b) the firm provided Above the Law with information on the EEOC’s finding with respect to only the discrimination complaint, and not the retaliation complaint.

This case illustrates how employers will sometimes retaliate against workers who accused them of discrimination even after the workers no longer work for them. Some of the more common types of post-termination retaliation include challenging claims for unemployment compensation and providing false and derogatory information about the worker in response to a request for a reference. If a former employer has retaliated against you for filing a discrimination complaint, you should contact an experienced employment lawyer to learn more about your rights.