It may seem patently obvious, but judging from the number of lawsuits alleging retaliation these days, many employers still don’t understand the importance of equal treatment following a complaint.
Once an employee files an internal or EEOC complaint, every action by that employee’s supervisor and HR leader will be scrutinized for bias.
Show any favoritism during that process and you’ll give the employee’s attorney extra incentive to throw the retaliation log onto the litigation fire.
That’s why it’s vital to remind supervisors to go out of their way to treat everyone equally, especially after an employee cries discrimination.
Recent case: Stanford McClure worked planning youth leisure activities for Career Systems. Shortly after McClure filed an in-house race-bias complaint, the company discovered that he had lied on his résumé about holding a college degree. It suspended McClure and later fired him. He sued, alleging race discrimination and retaliation.
What happened next sunk the employer’s case: McClure’s attorneys discovered that the woman who got McClure’s job after the company fired him also lied on her résumé about having a college degree. But the company allowed the woman the opportunity to correct the résumé.
After that came to light, the company offered McClure his job back with back pay. Not good enough, the court said. It allowed McClure’s retaliation claim to go to trial because he had been suspended while the woman was not. (McClure v. Career Systems Development Corporation, No. 05-3324, 8th Cir., 2006)
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- Contemplating a RIF? Use clear criteria for who loses job