If you’ve ever worried that participation in the internal investigation of an EEOC complaint might land you in trouble, you can take some comfort in a recent federal appeals court decision.
It is illegal to retaliate against anyone, including someone responding to an EEOC complaint on the company’s behalf, while the EEOC investigation is active.
Recent case: Daniel Crawford was hired to help the City of Fairburn’s police department deal with poor morale. Before he took the job, a female police officer had filed a sexual harassment complaint with the EEOC against her supervisor.
Crawford conducted an internal investigation after the EEOC had investigated the case and had found it likely that the female officer was harassed. Crawford issued a report clearing the police department. Later, he was fired and he sued for retaliation, arguing that he was protected because he had assisted in an investigation of wrong-doing.
The 11th Circuit dismissed his case because the EEOC had already concluded its investigation before Crawford started his. The court said participating in an internal investigation is protected only when it is in response to an active EEOC investigation. Investigating before or after the EEOC complaint isn’t protected. (Crawford v. City of Fairburn, No. 06-13073, 11th Cir., 2007)
- Survey: Most people come to HR careers by chance
- Between honesty and discretion, what's the best approach to reference requests?
- If you discover wrongdoing after the fact, you can use it in court to justify termination
- Hey, boss, you'd better call HR! Warn managers: Don't fix complaints informally
- One innocent interview question that could land you in court