Most employers in Denver, Colorado, have at least a small set of workplace rules and expectations that they rightfully expect employees to follow. These rules should be objective and serve the purpose of protecting and promoting the business and its employees.
When an employee breaks a legitimate workplace rule, he or she can and should expect an employer to discipline accordingly and, in serious cases, even fire the employee. As this blog has mentioned, this is true even if the employee had at some point reported discrimination or other unlawful conduct to the authorities, something that employees have every right to do with impunity.
However, the fact that an employer accuses an employee of breaking an office rule of policy does not mean there was no retaliation against an employee who, by way of example, reported a sexual harassment claim or some other form of discrimination.
After all, given that office violations do not have to be proven the way one would prove a criminal charge, it is fairly easy for an employer who wants to retaliate against an employee for making a report to come up with something the employee did wrong.
This seems to have happened relatively recently to an employee who, after reporting sexual harassment on behalf of another victim, was fired for taking a picture of one of her company's business partners while that person appeared intoxicated. The picture was supposedly taken weeks before she filed her sexual harassment complaint but was investigated only after she filed the complaint.
The bottom line is that an employer cannot, and should not, get away with using rule violations as pretexts, that is excuses, for retaliation. The fact an employer says that an employee broke a rule is not the end of a retaliation claim, and employees and Colorado should continue to evaluate their legal options.