The case is Hubbard v. Total Communications, decided on September 30. This is a summary order affirming the plaintiff's verdict after trial, so the Second Circuit does not provide all the evidence. But it does summarize the law:
This court has interpreted the opposition clause to protect not only the filing of formal discrimination charges, but also “informal protests of discriminatory employment practices, including making complaints to management, writing critical letters to customers, protesting against discrimination by industry or by society in general, and expressing support of co-workers who have filed formal charges.” Sumner v. U.S. Postal Serv., 899 F.2d 203, 209 (2d Cir. 1990).
The jury found that Hubbard did complain about discrimination. Here is what she told a supervisor in an email:
IT IS REALLY NICE TO FIND OUT THAT THE ENTIRE SERVICE DEPT GOT THEIR REVIEW/RAISES THAT WERE DUE IN JULY 2003. WHICH WOULD BE 10-12 GUYS/TECHNICIANS.” (emphasis added).
It's not good Internet etiquette to send emails in capital letters, but the jury must have thought this tactic got the attention of the people who retaliated against Hubbard. This email does not explicitly state that Hubbard thought she was the victim of discrimination. One well-known case where the plaintiff's complaints were not enough to trigger the anti-retaliation provision was Galdieri-Ambrosini v. National Realty & Development Corp., 136 F.3d 276 (2d Cir. 1998), where the plaintiff complained about unfair treatment but did not provide enough particulars to suggest she was really speaking out against gender discrimination. Many retaliation cases have been dismissed under Galdieri-Ambrosini's reasoning.
But in referencing how the "guys" got raises, Hubbard satisfies the legal standard in letting management know she was complaining about discrimination. The Court of Appeals holds that "This informal complaint of discrimination is enough to satisfy the protected activity requirement under Title VII."