Fourth District Moves to "But-For" Causation Standard in Employment Discrimination Cases

The Fourth District Court of Appeals issued an opinion on April 5, 2017 that receded from its previous precedent on the issue of the causation standard a plaintiff must successfully prove in a Florida Civil Rights Act retaliation claim.  The move appears to be a win for employers, as it raises the standard from "wholly unrelated"--meaning the employee needed only previously show that the protected activity by the employee and the retaliatory action by the employer were not "wholly unrelated'--to "but for"; meaning that employees must now show that they would not have been terminated or retaliated against "but for" the protected activity.

This represented a change from the court's precedent as set forth in Guess v. City of Miramar, 889 So. 2d 840 (Fla. 4th DCA 2004) to bring the standard of proof in line with that rendered by the United States Supreme Court in its decision in University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar, 133 S. Ct. 2517 (2013).  Therefore, though the protections remain the same for employees under the Fourth District's new ruling, the burden of proving a claim of wrongful conduct by the employer has increased on employees.  

If you are an employee that believes you are being retaliated against following some protected activity (e.g., you participated in an investigation of a discrimination claim or made such a claim yourself or threatened to or did report illegal activity by the employer), the advice of an attorney can be in some cases essential to ensure you file your claim in a timely manner and help stop retaliatory actions by your employer.  

If you are an employer that needs help ensuring that it is taking the right steps in handling discrimination claims or investigations or need help educating and training managers in retaliatory behaviors to avoid, an attorney can be an invaluable resource, as well.  In either case, the Employment Law attorneys at Icard Merrill are available to help.