Employee Wasn't Fired After All, So No Suit For Retaliation

Federal case law summary: EEOC retaliatory discharge.

Chapin v. Fort Rohr Motors, Inc., . EEOC complaint retaliatory discharge.

Plaintiff filed EEOC complaint against employer, after which his supervisor notified him that he needed to "reverse the claim right away, and it needs to be done today," and that "you aren't going to work here until you get it reversed. Period."

Plaintiff went home, but did not withdraw the complaint. On a later day, supervisor stated, "I didn't fire you," and "I suggest that you go get dressed and report back to work." Plaintiff neither resigned nor returned to work. Jury returned verdict in favor of plaintiff on retaliation claim.

The Court of Appeals reversed. Under these facts, plaintiff was neither actually terminated nor constructively discharged. A reasonable employee would not believe that firing was an "imminent and inevitable event." The court conceded that "perhaps [defendant] would have fired him" or "constantly harassed him to the point where his safety was at risk." However, "these possibilities would require speculation on our part."

The court did mention in a footnote that such a threat of termination, if it had the impact of dissuading an employee from supporting a discrimination complaint, might constitute an adverse action.

Nos. 09-1347, 09-2177, 621 F.3d 673 (7th Cir. Sept. 3, 2010).

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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