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Timing of Retaliation Key For Determining Pretext

Kelley Donley was a manager for Stryker Sales Corporation. In the summer of 2014, she took pictures of the CEO while he was allegedly inebriated at a team meeting. Her supervisor saw the pictures and demanded that she delete them. The supervisor notified Human Resources. Six weeks later, Ms. Donley reported sexual harassment by a manager towards another employee. Stryker investigated the complaint, which led to the termination of the manager. Once the sexual harassment investigation was completed, the company initiated an investigation into Ms. Donley and the pictures she had taken. Ms. Donley was thereafter fired for having taken the pictures.
After being dismissed on summary judgment, Ms. Donley appealed her case to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The circuit court reversed the lower court’s decision, finding that the lower court had erroneously accepted the company’s timeline of events. Looking at the facts from Ms. Donley’s perspective, no action was taken against her for taking pictures until after management learned about her report of sexual harassment. It was uncontested that her supervisor knew about the pictures many weeks before she complained and no move was made to terminate her.
The suspicious timing of her firing just weeks after she made the report of harassment, the fact that the manager accused of harassment received a severance package even though he had been accused of misconduct, and she had not, plus the conflicting explanations of events by Stryker were sufficient that a jury might find she was fired in retaliation for her report.