Lexology (12/15/15) Steven W. Jados
A U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruling is unique in that it held that an employer’s refusal to let an employee rescind her resignation can be an “adverse employment action”—one of the three prima facie elements of a claim for unlawful retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In Porter v. Houma Terrebonne Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, the employee at issue, Tyrikia Porter, tendered her resignation and before her last day of work, testified in a grievance hearing that she had been sexually harassed by HTHA’s executive director. Management encouraged her to rescind her resignation prior to and after the hearing.
Shortly after her resignation date, Porter sent HTHA a letter asking to rescind her resignation, but the executive director refused her request. The court stressed that the context of the refusal was critical to its decision and that it was reasonable for Porter to believe that she would be allowed to rescind her resignation. The ruling is a clear warning that mixed messages from management and deviations from prior practices may give rise to unlawful retaliation claims.