On February 6, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed the district court’s entry of summary judgment dismissing a Title VII retaliation case. Ledbetter v. Good Samaritan Ministries, et al., No. 14-2822 (7th Cir., 2-6-2015). This opinion is about suspicious timing and too many loose ends. Instead of firing the plaintiff the day of the alleged termination meeting (before they learned of his EEOC charge), the decision-makers “dawdled.” The dawdling of the decision-makers created an inference that they fired him the day after they learned of his EEOC charge because the charge was the “last straw.” It is possible that if he had not filed his charge, he would have remained employed and, therefore, his termination was, at least in part, in retaliation for his charge. Even if they had already made a tentative decision to terminate the plaintiff, but did not execute it until they received notice of the charge, the lawsuit still should not have been dismissed, as the charge may have triggered the firing.
In addition, the alleged false accusations made by the plaintiff, which the employer offered as a reason for his termination, could have been the same accusations that he had made in his EEOC charge. In that case, the decision to terminate him would have been inseparable from and in retaliation for his charge.