Employees who experience retaliation after complaining about bias can sue and win, even if it turns out there was no basis for the original discrimination complaint.
The retaliation doesn’t even have to be something serious such as a demotion or firing. It can be something as subtle as lost training opportunities. If a reasonable employee would perceive the change as an attempt to dissuade him from raising possible discrimination in the first place, that’s enough.
Recent case: Christopher Miller, who is white, worked as a police officer in Ithaca. He complained about what he believed was pro-minority bias in the department. For example, he said blacks and Hispanics got promotions despite being less qualified and having less seniority.
After one of several bias complaints, Miller was denied training that other officers received. When he sued for discrimination, he added a retaliation claim based on the missed training opportunities.
The court dismissed most of Miller’s claims, including discrimination allegations. However, it allowed his retaliation claim to go to trial. (Miller v. City of Ithaca, et al., No. 310-CV-597, ND NY, 2010)
Best practice: Make sure your training programs are open to everyone who is eligible. Don’t rely solely on supervisor recommendations. Widely advertise your training courses. Specifically ask all eligible employees if they want to participate. Then document their responses. If you can’t offer training to everyone who’s interested, consider using a lottery system to pick participants.