To come within the protection of Title VII and the Kentucky Civil Rights Act, a plaintiff must establish that he or she challenged, opposed, protested and/or reported an employment practice that he or she reasonably believed was unlawful. The Sixth Circuit advised recently in Yazdian v. ConMed Endoscopic that while a vague complaint does not rise to the level of protected opposition neither must "the plaintiff's complaint be lodged with absolute formality, clarity, or precision."
Basically, the complaint or report must provide some reasonable grounds for the employer to conclude that the employee is protesting or reporting what the employee at least reasonably believes is some form of unlawful employment discrimination, not just protesting what the employees believe to be a generally unfair or wrong employment decision or practice. By way of example, the Sixth Circuit in Yazdian specifically cited each of the following six statements as constituting protected activity:
"I'm going to respond with counsel."
"I'm going to bring you up on charges before ..."
"Bring a lawsuit against [the supervisor]"
"Hostile work environment"
"I will have an attorney respond."
"I will be responding with charges."
Yazdian was discussed in an earlier post: Retaliation: What Is Protected Activity?