On July 14, 2016, the 7th Circuit reversed the dismissal of a Title VII retaliation claim. Hatcher v. Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois University, et al., No. 15-1599 (7th Cir. 7/14/2016). The plaintiff, a university professor, claimed that she was denied tenure on the basis of her gender and in retaliation for filing a charge of gender discrimination against the university with the EEOC. The university contended that it denied her tenure because she allegedly produced insufficient scholarship. The district court dismissed the retaliation claim for failure to state a cause of action. The 7th Circuit held that her complaint stated a plausible Title VII retaliation claim for filing her charge with the EEOC.
To state a claim for Title VII retaliation, a plaintiff must plead that he or she engaged in statutorily protected activity and was subjected to a materially adverse employment action as a result of that activity. Title VII specifically prohibits retaliation for filing a charge with the EEOC. All that is required under the federal pleading standard is a short and plain statement showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. The pleading of unknown details before discovery is not required. The following allegations were sufficient to state a retaliation claim: (1) the plaintiff filed an EEOC charge in which she alleged gender discrimination; (2) during his testimony at a judicial review board hearing, the Provost told the panel that the professor had filed a charge of discrimination; (3) the Chancellor declined the judicial review board’s recommendation to grant the professor tenure; (4) the Chancellor denied her tenure; and (5) “by the conduct described above,” the university retaliated against the professor for engaging in statutorily protected activity. The complaint specified a protected activity and an adverse employment action. It also pled that the university retaliated against her for engaging in a protected activity. The close temporal proximity between the protected activity and the adverse employment decision, the fact that the Chancellor rejected the board’s recommendation, and the lack of other allegations in the complaint which rule out retaliation as a cause for the decision, were sufficient to make the retaliation claim plausible and put the university on notice of the facts which supported her claim. Therefore, the 7th Circuit concluded that the district court erred in dismissing the complaint for failure to state a claim of Title VII retaliation, and remanded the claim for further proceedings.