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HR law 101: Always follow up with employee who has filed internal discrimination complaint

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Smart HR pros make it a point to check back regularly with employees who complain about alleged discrimination. They document those conversations and address any problems the employee reports, such as claims supervisors are blocking promotions or other opportunities.

Recent case: When Anthony Camp­bell, who is black, first went to work as a chemist for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, he got good reviews. In fact, he looked like a rising star.

Then he was transferred to another office. There, his new supervisor offered a less-than-glowing review. Campbell filed an internal complaint, alleging that the appraisal was racially motivated.

Then he sued, contending that as a result of his complaint, he was ­denied promotional opportunities that white co-workers got and essentially was sidelined in a dead-end job. The agency claimed he had no case.

The court disagreed. It said the allegation that Campbell was denied opportunities white co-workers got was enough to keep his lawsuit alive. (Campbell v. Korleski, No. 2:10-CV-1129, SD OH, 2011)

Final note: Checking in after Camp­­bell complained internally might have revealed that he felt mistreated and that he was missing opportunities. Such a simple inquiry would have created an opportunity to either document that his concerns were false or provide a springboard to fix the problem. If Campbell had reported no problems, that would itself have been important evidence to combat his subsequent retaliation lawsuit.

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