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Landmark Ruling Upholds Employees’ Rights Against Retaliation

Feb 22, 2024 | Written by: Sharon M. Flynn, Esq. |

In a recent ruling, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey acknowledged that when an employer sues an employee in response to the employee raising discrimination claims, it could constitute unlawful retaliation under both the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This decision came in a case involving former employees of Cognizant Technology Solutions Corporation and its U.S. branch, who had previously filed discrimination and retaliation claims against the company.

The employees, Jean-Claude Franchitti and Vartan Piroumian, faced a lawsuit from Cognizant alleging violation of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and related company policies due to retaining emails after termination. Franchitti and Piroumian countered, asserting that the company's lawsuit was a form of retaliation for their discrimination claims. They argued that the lawsuit aimed to pressure them to drop their discrimination cases.

The court denied Cognizant's motion to dismiss Franchitti and Piroumian’s counterclaims, citing protected activities under LAD and Title VII, such as filing claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and initiating lawsuits. The court emphasized that the mere filing of a lawsuit by an employer against its employees could have a retaliatory effect, creating a chilling atmosphere for protected activities. It clarified that an employee need not prove the lawsuit's baselessness to establish retaliation but must demonstrate a causal connection between the protected activity and the lawsuit. Consequently, Franchitti and Piroumian were given the opportunity to proceed with their counterclaims against Cognizant.

This ruling serves as a significant recognition of employee rights in cases of discrimination and retaliation. It underscores the importance of protecting employees who speak out against discriminatory practices by ensuring they are not subjected to further retaliation in the form of legal action from their employers. The decision sets a precedent that empowers employees to assert their rights without fear of repercussion, ultimately contributing to a more equitable and just workplace environment.

If you have any inquiries regarding your rights as an employee in the workplace, or your responsibilities as an employer, especially concerning discrimination, retaliation, or related legal matters, please don't hesitate to reach out to one of our experienced employment law attorneys.

Sharon M. Flynn


Sharon M. Flynn, Esq. is a partner with Gebhardt & Kiefer, P.C., and practices primarily in the areas of general litigation, employment law, and insurance defense.

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Any statements made herein are solely for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon or construed as legal advice.