With the most recent U.S. Supreme Court pronouncement on retaliation (see “Supreme Court expands retaliation prohibitions”), it’s now clearly impermissible to punish someone who is closely related to an employee who has filed an EEOC complaint or lawsuit.
But you can protect yourself by limiting who within the company knows about litigation.
Recent case: Kelvin Daugherty and his wife worked for Family Dollar Stores. Mrs. Daugherty filed an EEOC complaint alleging unfair working conditions.
Mr. Daugherty was then fired for allegedly engaging in direct competition by running his own discount store. He sued, alleging he had been fired because of his wife’s complaint.
The court dismissed the case, concluding that no one involved with Daugherty’s firing knew about his wife’s activities. (Daugherty v. Family Dollar Stores, No. 09-5111, DC NJ, 2011)