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HR Manager Not Protected from Retaliation After Encouraging Outside Complaint

Andrea Gogel was a human resources representative for Kia Motors Manufacturing. While employed at Kia, she filed a charge of discrimination, believing that she had been discriminated against based on her gender and national origin. As she continued to work, Gogel was approached by a couple of other employees who wanted to pursue claims of discrimination. In response, Gogel shared the name and contact information of her attorney. When Kia learned that she had been encouraging other employees to sue, the company fired her. Gogel amended her charge of discrimination to include retaliation.

The federal district court hearing Kia’s motion for summary judgment dismissed Gogel’s retaliation claim; it determined that she had not been fired in retaliation for protected conduct. Rather, the court concluded that she had been terminated for encouraging other employees to file a discrimination claim, which was a violation of her job responsibilities as a human resource representative and not protected.

Upon first hearing the case, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s decision. However, upon an en banc review, the circuit court upheld the lower court’s decision. As a human resources representative, Gogel was expected to help employees use the company’s internal processes, not divert them to outside avenues. Encouraging an employee to sue was seen as an act of disloyalty and directly contradicted her job duties in the particular facts of this case. Thus, her retaliation claim was dismissed.