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Beware excessive monitoring of employees who raise discrimination concerns

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Everyone knows it’s retaliation to demote or fire an employee after he complains about discrimination or cooperates in an investigation. But what about less drastic actions? They might be retaliation, too, under the right circumstances.

That can even include excessive monitoring after the employee has complained.

Recent case: John worked as a sanitation supervisor, helping manage garbage collection for the town of Hempstead. He observed several incidents that he believed contributed to a hostile work environment for his subordinates.

For example, several employees re­­ported finding a noose in the garage. They told John, who in turn told his supervisor. Another time, John in­­ves­­ti­­gated a black employee’s claim that white employees used a racial slur. The white employees were transferred.

After reporting these and other incidents up the chain of command, John claimed that he suddenly found himself under closer scrutiny. For example, his supervisors checked his trip logs more frequently to make sure he wasn’t putting unnecessary miles on the town’s vehicles.

He sued, alleging retaliation for reporting discrimination and for helping employees with their cases.

The court said excessive monitoring can be retaliation under the right circumstances.

However, in this case, it was not. First, the mileage monitoring wasn’t limited to John. Second, the court believed that the town’s stated reason—saving wear and tear on its vehicles—was legitimate and not something done to punish John for his protected activities. (Puglisi v. Town of Hempstead, No. 10-CV-1928, ED NY, 2012)

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