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Tell supervisors: It’s OK to criticize–even if employee has filed EEOC complaint

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Some employees think filing an EEOC complaint insulates them from any kind of negative action at work. They’re wrong.

Employers are free to treat an employee who has complained just as they would any other employee. You can continue to invoke your usual management practices, including pointing out errors and criticizing work if the facts warrant it.

Recent case: John Tarmas has been a civilian employee with the U.S. Navy for more than 25 years. When he developed insomnia, his doctors recommended a flexible work schedule so he could come in late if he had been unable to sleep the night before. That worked for a while, but soon Tarmas wasn’t coming in until after noon.

His supervisor told Tarmas he would have to adjust his schedule for operational reasons. Tarmas complained about disability discrimination to the EEOC.

Soon after, the same supervisor sent Tarmas an email explaining that there were some problems with his reports. However, the email never made it into Tarmas’ personnel file and he continued to earn raises and cash awards.

Even so, Tarmas sued, alleging retaliation.

The court dismissed his case. It reasoned that there is “nothing retaliatory about a supervisor notifying an em­­ployee of problems with his work.” After all, how could a workplace function if supervisors could never criticize an employee who had filed a complaint? (Tarmas v. Secretary of the Navy, No. 10-15370, 11th Cir., 2011)

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