If an employer in California attempts to head off discrimination complaints by insisting that an employee sign away the right to file a complaint, then the courts might view the act as anticipatory retaliation. The recent case of a former employee of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs illustrates the legal theory that describes the adverse action of an employer meant to prevent people from engaging in legal activities.
The man's employer had disciplined him multiple times for allegedly poor performance and conduct with suspensions and written reprimands. He lodged complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission each time because he believed racial discrimination motivated the actions. The employer eventually confronted him with an ultimatum. He would lose his job unless he signed a waiver promising to dismiss his existing complaints and never file another.
The employer subsequently terminated his employment. Despite signing the waiver, the man filed a lawsuit. A court dismissed many of his claims but found that his retaliation claim could proceed. The court recognized the argument from the EEOC that labeled the waiver as a retaliatory act meant to prevent future lawful action.
When a person loses a job under circumstances that appear discriminatory, a conversation with a lawyer might reveal options for holding the employer accountable for an illegal action. If evidence of wrongful termination emerges, then a lawyer might recommend filing a complaint with the EEOC. This action might lead to a negotiated settlement with the employer or the case might go to trial. A lawyer could support the plaintiff by organizing evidence of legal violations and pursuing financial damages.