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.
- Must we make employees available to EEOC investigators?
- Critical evaluation isn't an adverse employment action
- Not everyone wears a halo: Courts don't expect your work atmosphere to be perfect
- Warn bosses: E-mail is smoking-gun evidence
- Protect against retaliation suits by conducting independent and 'blind' internal investigations