Join Club

NOVA Legal Beat: Fired for Harassment Complaint?

NOVA Legal Beat logo

Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Mathew B. Tully of Tully Rinckey PLLC, an Arlington firm that specializes in federal employment and labor law, security clearance proceedings, and military law.

Q. Several weeks ago I told my employer that a supervisor had been sexually harassing me, and today I was fired. Does this count as unlawful retaliation, even though some time has passed since I complained?

A. Anti-discrimination laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who assert their rights by complaining to the employer, filing a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or filing a lawsuit in federal court. This does not mean, however, that once an employee complains or files a charge or a lawsuit, he or she becomes immune to adverse employment actions. If an employee performs poorly after the filing, for example, the employer can fire or demote him or her.

In order for a retaliation to avoid dismissal, the employee, with the help of his or her attorney, must be able to prove three things: 1. the employee engaged in an activity protected by a law such as Title VII, which covers sexual harassment; 2. the employer subjected the employee to an adverse action; and 3. “the protected activity was causally connected to the adverse action,” the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia noted in Chapman v. Geithner (2012).

The amount of time between the protected activity and adverse action will greatly influence a court’s determination as to whether there is a causal connection. “As temporal proximity fades, the inference of causal connection weakens,” the Eastern District court noted in Sturdivant v. Geren (2009). The question then becomes: How much time passed is too much?

In Miles v. Dell, Inc. (2005), the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals noted that a delay of three years between the protected activity and adverse employment action “negated the inference of causation,” and the same was true for a delay lasting 13 months. Even a three-to-four month delay is too long, according to Sturdivant. But a causal link can exist when the delay is 10 weeks, the Eastern District court noted in Pinkett v. Apex Communications Corp. (2009). Even more, the court added a causal link can exist for longer periods – from seven months to one year – when there is evidence of “ongoing discriminatory animus.”

Employees who believe their employers have subjected them to unlawful retaliation for engaging in protected activities under laws such as Title VII should immediately contact an employment law attorney.

Mathew B. Tully is the founding partner of Tully Rinckey PLLC. Located in Arlington, Va. and Washington, D.C. Tully Rinckey PLLC’s attorneys practice federal employment law, military law, and security clearance representation. To speak with an attorney, call 703-525-4700 or to learn more visit 

Recent Stories

This week begins one of the favorite times of the year for many: Girl Scout cookie season. Friday (Feb. 3) marks the first day of in-person booth sales in Arlington….

A 17-year-old Arlington boy is in custody after another teen was shot to death in an Alexandria hotel over the weekend The shooting happened Friday night on an upper floor of…

Morning Notes

Shots Fired Investigation in Green Valley — From the Arlington County Police Department: “ACPD is investigating the report of shots heard in the area of 25th Street S. and S….

Tour the secluded and quiet Bellevue Forest with its local parks, trails, forested areas and more in Neighborhood Spotlight.

St. Charles offers a play-based curriculum in a welcoming, Christ-centered environment.

Our program focuses on socio-emotional development and kindergarten readiness through hands-on and engaging activities. Our programs offer different schedules ranging from 7:30 am-5:30 pm for students, ages 2-5. We feature a full-day Jr. kindergarten class for older 4’s/5’s. Our facility includes a full-sized gymnasium, school chapel, and library. All of our students enjoy music and physical education weekly. Children have an opportunity to participate in enrichment classes such as soccer, basketball, ballet, and science.

We offer Summer Camp with weekly themes and twice a week water play, including Fun Friday moon bounce. Please join us for our Open House Feb. 3 at 9:30 am and 11:00 am. Click here to sign-up.

For more information or to schedule a tour, visit us at or call (703) 527-0608.

Submit your own Announcement here.

If you are a lifelong learner over 50+ who wants to make new friends, power up your brain, and enjoy a wide-variety college-level courses, Encore Learning is for you. An Arlington based nonprofit, Encore Learning offers courses in the arts, theater, literature, history, technology and more. This semester we offer our most popular course, Global Hot Spots as well as 25 new courses. Courses are presented either online or in-person at George Mason University at Virginia Square and other Arlington locations.

Join the free presentation to learn about courses and meet the instructors. This is Encore Learning’s signature event to highlight the upcoming semester with brief presentations by each instructor.

The Spring Course Preview event is Thursday, February 2nd at 9:30 AM via Zoom:

Read More

Submit your own Announcement here.

First-time Moms Meet & Greet

The truth, your first pregnancy and new mom months are full of twists and turns, ups and downs, and lots of questions! None of us really know the best way to do it – we just figure it out, together…

Mini Photo Sessions for Family & Pets

Sign up for your mini session now. We are offering several sessions this winter/spring. Choose what works best for you.

Valentines Mini Sessions (lots of red and pink props)
Saturday, February 11

St Patrick’s Day Mini Sessions (lots of green


Subscribe to our mailing list