For more information please call  800.727.2766


Close Timing Along with Corroborating Evidence Supports Retaliation Claim

Damon Stepp was a temporary employee working for Covance Central Laboratory Services (Covance). The company has a practice of hiring temporary employees for a one-year period but good performers were often hired as permanent employees within six to nine months. Stepp was given positive performance evaluations in his first nine months but he was not offered a permanent position. Two temporary co-workers hired around the same time were given regular positions.

Stepp claimed he was not hired because he complained about the mistreatment of employees in his department. Stepp, an African-American male, asserted that women and white males received better treatment. Stepp confronted his supervisor, asserting that he was going to make a formal complaint. After an investigation by the company found no issues, Stepp filed a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC, in what was his ninth month. Two months later, the supervisor complained that Stepp stared at him frequently and smirked. Another supervisor informed Stepp he was not hired because of that supervisor’s complaint. Covance then put a freeze on hiring.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals evaluated whether Stepp had a claim for retaliation under Title VII. Covance had agreed for the purposes of appeal that Stepp’s complaints were protected activity and his failure to be hired permanently was an adverse action. Covance claimed Stepp lacked a causal connection between those two events. The circuit court disagreed, finding the timing of Stepp’s EEOC charges and his not being made a permanent employee in the ninth month close enough to create that connection. In addition, the supervisor treated Stepp’s non-complaining co-workers better by hiring them even though their performance reviews were similar. Covance’s only defenses were the hiring freeze and the complaint about Stepp. The court dismissed these arguments because the freeze was two months after Stepp hit the nine-month mark and it viewed the supervisor’s complaint as flimsy.