Warn bosses against even subtle retaliation

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in Employment Law,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

We can’t say it often enough: Employees can lose discrimination claims and still end up winning big because their employers retaliated against them for complaining in the first place.

Don’t let that happen at your organization. Develop a plan to stop retaliation dead in its tracks by:

  • Investigating every discrimination claim and promptly letting the employee know the outcome
  • Explaining to the employee that, even if you didn’t find any basis for her discrimination complaint, you appreciate that she came forward
  • Reassuring the employee that you won’t tolerate retaliation and explaining how to report any problems
  • Following up regularly with the employee
  • Impressing on supervisors that you won’t tolerate even subtle retaliation, such as the silent treatment or a vaguely vengeful attitude.

Recent case: Linda Prince-Garrison alleged that her employer had discriminated against her based on her race, national origin and gender. She complained to upper management about this alleged treatment. She was eventually suspended, but was then reinstated even though the employer believed it had not discriminated against her in any way. It simply wanted to settle the matter without litigation.

That’s when Prince-Garrison said her supervisors began to micromanage her and treat her with “disrespect.” She sued, alleging discrimination and retaliation.

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals said she should have a trial on retaliation, even though it upheld the dismissal of the underlying discrimination claims. The court said employees can show they were retaliated against by outlining the treatment they received after making an original discrimination complaint. If that treatment would discourage a reasonable employee from complaining in the first place, it may be retaliation. (Prince-Garrison v. Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, No. 08-1090, 4th Cir., 2009)

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