Retaliation: Where Facts Relating to Motivation are in Dispute, Retaliation Claims Survive Summary Judgment

Experienced employment lawyers are aware that retaliation claims are often easier to litigate as compared to other employment discrimination claims. Since we started this blog analyzing decisions in favor of employees in Pennsylvania, we have confirmed this trend as Courts are often reluctant to dismiss retaliation claims, even when the companion discrimination claims are dismissed. A recent decision in Volk v. School District of Phila. 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21915 (E.D. Pa. February 19, 2013), (Savage, J.) confirms this trend. In Volk, a teacher filed claims for age and gender discrimination, retaliation and hostile work environment. While the Court granted the employer’s Motion for Summary Judgment on the gender and age discrimination, and the hostile work environment claims, the court found that disputed issues of fact relating to motivation allow the retaliation claims to proceed to trial and be determined by a jury.

In Volk, the court reviewed the McDonnell Douglas prima facie case standard – the Plaintiff employee must show that:(1) he complained of gender or age discrimination; (2) the employer terminated his employment or took other adverse action; and (3) there was a causal connection between his complaining and the termination. Ultimately, the court held that drawing all reasonable inferences in his favor, the Plaintiff made out a prima facie case of retaliation by generally complaining about age and gender discrimination, concluding that there is sufficient evidence of a causal link between the protected activity and the adverse employment action. The Court found that while a legitimate, non-retaliatory reason for the termination was offered – discipline for unprofessional conduct – where the Plaintiff was disciplined for unprofessional conduct or because he complained about age and gender discrimination is up to a jury to decide.

For more information on retaliation and Abramson Employment Law see


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