Recently, the First Circuit Court of Appeals reinforced one of the benefits of employers seeking legal counsel prior to taking a proposed employment action.  In O’Rourke v. Tiffany and Co., the First Circuit, affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment for the employer, denying claims that the company had retaliated against an employee for exercising her rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and discriminated against her under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The First Circuit disagreed with the plaintiff’s assertion that the employer’s human resources department consulting with counsel after learning of the company’s decision to eliminate the plaintiff’s position was evidence that the company intended to violate her rights.

In closing, the First Circuit held that “the prudent step of seeking a lawyer’s advice is not the stuff on which a finding of [retaliatory] intent can be premised.”

Why businesses and employers should note this decision: 

This case highlights that employers should feel free to seek legal counsel prior to making employment decisions, without concern that such advice itself could provide an evidentiary basis for a retaliation or discrimination claim.