Has an employee filed an EEOC discrimination complaint? If so, you should know that his or her attorney has probably encouraged that employee to look for any sign of retaliation—like a lowered, a demotion or closer scrutiny. Often, attorneys want to bolster their clients’ claims with tales of retribution.
That doesn’t mean you should change the way you treat the employee if you are convinced you can back up your actions and you treat other employees the same way. Filing a complaint doesn’t confer magic protection or exemption from the rules everyone else has to follow.
Bottom line: Don’t treat a complaining employee better than you treat everyone else.
Recent case: Shawanda Murry worked as a cook supervisor at a low-security federal correctional facility. She filed an EEOC complaint alleging discrimination. Around the same time, her supervisors reported that she had engaged in several outbursts and told them she had a brain tumor.
The prison system then asked her to undergo a psychological and physical fitness-for-duty examination. They transferred her to the institution’s warehouse. She claimed the move was in retaliation for her complaint.
But the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the retaliation claim. It reasoned that her outbursts and claimed brain tumor created a legitimate concern about whether she could perform her job duties. Because Murry couldn’t point to anything else tying her EEOC complaint to the transfer and exam request, the court tossed her case. (Murry v. Attorney General, No. 06-15764, 11th Cir., 2007)
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