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Employee sued and now she’s back at work? Don’t walk on eggshells for fear of retaliation

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

You know it’s illegal to retaliate against an employee who returns to work after winning or settling a lawsuit against you.

But that doesn’t mean management has to be afraid of her, worrying that she’ll perceive every little slight as the organization’s way of getting back at her.

The fact is, courts are losing some patience with employees who see retaliation behind every action or denied opportunity. As the following case shows, employees can’t cry retaliation for the little stuff.

Recent case: Debra Pueschel had a litigious history against her employer, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and had filed several lawsuits against the agency during her 30 years of employment.

One of those cases was a workers’ compensation claim alleging that she became anxious and fatigued after experiencing what she said was sexual harassment.

The FAA opposed her compensation claim, so she had to use sick and vacation leave when her symptoms struck. After a decade of litigation, she won.

Then she demanded that the FAA help her put together her leave records so she could apply for the leave to be reinstated. The agency couldn’t locate many of the older records, and Pueschel claimed it had lost them to punish her for filing the workers’ compensation claim.

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed her case, concluding that the agency’s lack of cooperation was not the sort of retaliation employees can sue over. (Pueschel v. Peters, No. 08-1178, 4th Cir., 2009)

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