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Oklahoma Goodwill settles retaliation lawsuit

An Oklahoma outlet for Goodwill Industries decided to pay a settlement in a case brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The suit involved the alleged retaliation against a worker in a Lawton unit of Goodwill after she testified in another lawsuit regarding a separate matter of sex and age discrimination. The suit claimed that Goodwill fired the employee subsequent to her testimony on behalf of another goodwill worker and that the firing was in retaliation for that testimony.

The EEOC has stated that employment discrimination and whistleblower claims depend upon employees' having the ability to testify freely in court without fear of the employer's retaliation. For its part, Goodwill says that most of the claims in the suit were dismissed, and even though Goodwill believed it could defend against the retaliation claim, its insurer decided to settle to avoid the cost of more protracted litigation.

The consent decree resulting from the settlement consists of $100,000 in damages and provides for revision and distribution of anti-discrimination policies to employees of the company, as well as training with regard to retaliation in an effort to prevent future problems.

It is generally impermissible for employers to fire, demote or otherwise punish employees for bringing attention to, or testifying about, the employer's discrimination or other illegal activity. Such retaliatory actions may give rise to a claim for damages against an employer.

However, because such cases often turn on the intent behind the actions the employer takes, what constitutes valid evidence can become a complicated matter. This, and the fact that employee protection schemes are often a mix of federal, state and local laws, means that it may be wise for any Oklahoman who believes they have been retaliated or discriminated against unlawfully to consult an experienced legal professional.

Source: businessinsurance.com, "Goodwill unit settles charges it retaliated against worker who testified in suit," Judy Greenwald, July 23, 2014

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