A divided three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled recently that an HR manager engaged in protected activity under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when she gave a co-employee alleging mistreatment on the job the name of a lawyer that the HR Manager herself planned to consult about filing a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

In Gogel v. Kia Motors, the panel majority revived a terminated HR manager’s unlawful retaliation claim. In so ruling, the panel rejected a federal trial court’s finding that giving a co-worker the name of a plaintiff’s lawyer – essentially encouraging the co-worker to file a formal discrimination charge – instead of referring the employee’s complaint internally, as required by company policy, was a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the HR manager’s termination.

Notably, the panel majority declined to apply or even acknowledge the so-called “Manager Rule” that has been recognized by several other federal appeals courts to hold that an HR professional or manager engages in a protected activity only when the person has good reason to step out of his or her role of representing the company.

A copy of the panel’s ruling in Gogel v. Kia Motors is available online.

Members of the Center for Workplace Compliance (CWC) can read more here.