Disclosure of Charging Party's Name in Securities Filing Can Constitute Retaliation Under Title VII
- January 30, 2015
Publically traded companies are required by law to disclose to shareholders pending legal matters that could materially affect their stock price. According to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, an employer’s disclosure of a pending EEOC Charge of Discrimination in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing could have been a retaliatory action when it listed the complaining employee’s name.
In Greenglass v. Int’l Monetary Systems, Ltd., a former executive filed a sex discrimination claim against the defendant. She later alleged that the defendant had retaliated against her by disclosing her name in an SEC filing discussing the Charge and its possible impact on the company. The plaintiff contended that the company previously had not made a practice of disclosing litigants’ identities in these filings. She claimed that the disclosure demonstrated an intent to interfere with her future job prospects by publicizing the fact that she had made a legal claim against her former employer.
The Seventh Circuit reversed a grant of summary judgment for the defendant, remanding the case for jury trial. In its opinion, the court said that the plaintiff had raised credible factual issues that must be resolved at trial. Specifically, the defendant’s prior filings had not disclosed litigants’ identities. The company argued that the change was based on legal advice from its securities counsel, but the Seventh Circuit noted that the defendant continued to protect these identities in some cases even after receiving this advice.
The Seventh Circuit did not discuss whether the retaliation claim would have survived had the defendant maintained a uniform practice of disclosing litigants’ names in all SEC filings. The court also did not opine on whether the same rule would apply to lawsuits, as opposed to EEOC Charges, where the identity of the litigants is typically a matter of public record as soon as the suit is filed. Regardless, public employers should review their litigation disclosure practices to make certain they are not subject to claims of retaliating against former employees who have made legal claims against the company.