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Common Sense Required for Notice of Sex Discrimination Complaint

An employee who told her supervisor that she was being paid less than her male coworker and threatened to sue has effectively made a complaint of discrimination.

Susan Mumm worked for Charter Township of Superior in a variety of jobs. In February of 2014, she was disciplined for performance-based reasons. She protested the discipline and argued that her mistake was based on “inexperience” and new duties she had taken on. The supervisors agreed to make changes to her assigned duties if she withdrew her complaint. In a subsequent meeting on these issues, Ms. Mumm notified the officials that she would only withdraw her complaint if she received a pay increase because she was “tired of being underpaid for all these years in relation to Keith Lockie.” She went on to tell them that she had hired an attorney and would sue about it. Not long after, Ms. Mumm was fired because they no longer trusted her. 

At the federal district court level, the Township argued that Ms. Mumm’s retaliation claim had to fail because her complaint did not meet the standard for Title VII protected activity. Upon considering an appeal limited to the retaliation claim, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. Ms. Mumm’s threat to sue was very clearly protected activity and the Township should have known that she was complaining about sex discrimination. While she may not have used the language of “sex” or “gender,” the supervisors knew that Mr. Lockie was a male and occupied a position similar to Ms. Mumm. A jury could reasonably find that Ms. Mumm had been retaliated against for protesting discrimination.