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Too many managers and supervisors offer unsolicited advice to employees who’ve filed discrimination complaints.

The suggestions usually include being more of a “team player” and “not rocking the boat.” Tell managers such “helpful” career tips can backfire badly.

It usually goes like this: An employee approaches a supervisor with a discrimination or harassment complaint, just as the employee discrimination policy says to do. The supervisor explains the policy but asks the employee to let the matter go. After filing the complaint, the employee notices things he or she didn’t notice before and concludes that it’s retaliation.

Recent case: Jamie Hare worked for the U.S. Postal Service and had an excellent work record. Her supervisor recommended her for a special training program and a promotion. All that changed after an irate customer complained about Hare and a postal inspector investigated. According to Hare, the inspector asked her highly personal questions, demanded that she go to lunch with him and commented on her appearance.

Hare filed an internal complaint. Her supervisor advised her to drop the matter, but she didn’t. Then the real trouble began. She was audited; her boss yelled at her; no one covered her work when she was out sick; and her next performance evaluation was not as stellar as the earlier ones.

The 3rd Circuit ordered a retaliation trial, finding a possible connection between Hare’s complaint and her changed working conditions. (Hare v. Potter, No. 05-5238, 3rd Cir., 2007)

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