Tell supervisors to zip it! Little digs can add up to retaliation

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in Employment Law,FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

When supervisors have to work with an employee they view as a troublemaker, they sometimes look for subtle ways to exact punishment. If the so-called troublemaker got that title because he constantly complains that his co-workers are being discriminated against, supervisors should lay off.

Snide comments and holding the employee strictly to the rules while letting others slide can lead to a retaliation complaint. And if that complaint leads to court, all bets are off. Juries often find a way to punish supervisors and companies.

Recent case: Dewey Lakes worked for Hill’s Pet Nutrition and often came to the defense of a female co-worker whom he had known since childhood. He claimed she was being sexually harassed and denied training.

Over the next few years, Lakes claimed that his supervisors found ways to punish him for looking out for his co-worker and supporting her in her subsequent lawsuit. For example, Lakes claimed he was told he was on a “list of people that Hill’s wants to get rid of.” He said he had been disciplined for taking FMLA leave. Eventually, Lakes sued for retaliation.

The court said such incidents might prompt a reasonable employee to not report alleged discrimination—a chilling effect that lies at the heart of anti-retaliation rules. It ordered a jury trial. (Lakes v. Colgate-Palmolive and Hill’s Pet Nutrition, No. 1:06-CV-0297, SD IN, 2008)

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