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Remind supervisors: Absolutely no comments about employee’s pending EEOC complaint

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in Discrimination and Harassment,FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

There are some words that should never come from a supervisor’s mouth—including any statement that would seem to encourage an employee to drop an EEOC complaint. That just about guarantees that a retaliation or interference lawsuit will go to trial should anything adverse (like a discharge or demotion) happen to the employee to whom the supervisor was speaking.

Recent case: Stanley was a warehouse manager. He had open-heart surgery and was out for several weeks. When he returned to his job, medical restrictions limited the number of hours per week he could work.

He soon filed an EEOC complaint alleging that his employer refused to abide by his doctor’s orders. Stanley claimed retaliation for taking FMLA leave, interference with the right to intermittent leave and refusal to engage in the ADA’s interactive reasonable accommodations process.

Shortly after he filed the complaint, Stanley met with a supervisor to address supposed performance problems. Stanley claims during that conversation, the supervisor advised him that if he “got rid of” the EEOC case, “everything would be OK.”

Stanley didn’t drop his complaint and was fired almost immediately. Then he sued.

The court said the case should go to trial, based in part on the supervisor’s comment about the EEOC complaint. That alone, the court wrote, could be interference with Stanley’s FMLA rights or retaliation for exercising those rights in addition to retaliation for filing the original complaint. (Hanczyc v. Valley Dis­­tri­­bution, No. 3-CV-10-2397, MD PA, 2012)

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