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Prevent payback: Retaliation hits all-time high

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

It’s more important than ever to remind supervisors that it’s unlawful to try to “get even” with people (staff or applicants) because they com­­plain about discrimination, either in house or to a government agency.

In fact, while employee complaints to the EEOC about every type of discrimination—race, sex, age, religion, etc.—declined from 2012 to 2013, only one rose: retaliation. Such charges set a record last year (see chart).

Employees have found that retaliation charges are an easy add-on to their bias claims. In fact, 41% of employee complaints to the EEOC now include a retaliation charge, an all-time high.

Even when employees are unsuccess­­ful in their original age, race or sex discrimination claim, they can still win by arguing that they were somehow punished at work for filing the complaint.       

Plus, retaliation has become easier to prove in court since a Supreme Court ruling a few years ago adopted a broader definition of retaliation.

Retaliation occurs, the EEOC says, when an employer “takes an adverse action against a covered individual because he or she en­­gaged in protected activity.” To prevent claims, follow these steps:

1. During anti-discrimination training, include a section on the risk of retaliation. Explain specifically what is unlawful.

2. Take every discrimination com­­plaint seriously. Perform a complete investigation and document it.

3. Let the complainant know, in writing, that retaliation will not be tolerated. Ask him or her to bring any concerns to you.

4. Give complainants a chance to shape up before you take adverse action. Be consistent with discipline. Document every move you make.

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