No good deed goes unpunished.
That was surely the reaction of human resources director Karlean Victoria Grey-Allen when the 2nd Circuit ruled on May 9, in a case of first impression, that her participation in an internal investigation of a sexual harassment claim did not protect her from retaliation by her employer.
Grey-Allen claimed that conducting an internal investigation into Townsend’s sexual harassment claims was protected activity under the participation clause of Title VII. Specifically, she referenced the language “participate in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this subchapter,” claiming that any investigation that is intended to remedy Title VII discrimination should be included in that definition.
On the surface, at least, this appears to be a decision that favors employers. After all, as long as there is no EEOC claim pending, employers “can act with a great deal of latitude in terminating someone involved in an investigation when there’s something about the conduct of that person that they don’t like,” says Richard Glovsky, a partner at Edwards Wildman Palmer.