Many employees who file discrimination claims are on the alert for potential retaliation. Their lawyers usually tell them to report any problems and explain that retaliation cases are often easier to win than the original discrimination claim.
That’s why HR should always check back with employees who file harassment or discrimination charges. If those employees report anything that smacks of retaliation, fix the problem right away.
Recent case: Katrina Kavanaugh worked as a police officer for Miami-Dade County. She accused a supervisor of sexual harassment. After an investigation, he was terminated.
Kavanaugh later sued, alleging that, while her sexual harassment complaint had been resolved, her employer retaliated against her.
As an example, she told the court she had been transferred to the night shift. Although she was paid more for working at night, she lost out on money she used to earn working another job after her day shift.
The county told the court that it moved Kavanaugh back to her preferred shift as soon as she complained that the shift change was retaliation. That was enough for the court to toss out her retaliation claim. (Kavanaugh v. Miami-Dade County, No. 09-CV-21666, SD FL, 2011)
Final note: Retaliation lawsuits are hot. Lawyers know they are easier to win and sometimes take weak discrimination or harassment cases, knowing that retaliation might occur. Remember, employees can lose the underlying discrimination or harassment case but win on retaliation.
- Review policy wording to ensure no e-Mail privacy rights
- Giving feedback to an overly sensitive worker
- It's not always best to challenge a handbook's implied contract
- Remember, 'persons' can report FEHA violations--even if they're partners in the business
- Speaking up at staff meeting generally not protected by the First Amendment