A husband and wife working for the Michigan Department of Corrections filed a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination and retaliation. The suit resulted in an $11.4 million unanimous jury verdict award. Federal law protects employees from harassment, which includes any instance of discrimination over an individual’s race, ethnicity or marital status. At the law firm of NachtLaw, P.C., we understand how reporting workplace harassment or discrimination may result in an employer retaliating against you.

When a female probation officer working for the MDOC became the subject of continuous racial slurs and harassment, she understood that not bringing attention to it only helped foster a “culture of racism.” When she attempted to file a complaint, however, a harassment counselor sabotaged her efforts. According to the Human Resource publication, HR Dive, instead of the employer fixing any of the problems, the slurs and harassment continued and the probation officer transferred to a different MDOC office. The situation did not improve, however, after she transferred to the other office.

Purportedly, her husband who worked for the MDOC as a deputy warden was forced to retire from his position after she filed a civil rights lawsuit. Her husband’s boss received a copy of the complaint, and alleged phony disciplinary charges were then brought against the probation officer’s husband as an act of retaliation for his wife’s lawsuit. The action resulted in his early retirement.

Bringing to your manager’s attention any negative issues experienced in the workplace should result in a professional response and an appropriate remedial action. The situation may otherwise develop into a hostile work environment. In situations where the hostility centers around an act of retaliation for voicing the complaint, you may need to take legal action.

Our page on employment discrimination provides more information about how your civil rights are protected by federal law in the workplace.