Just heard an employee has filed an EEOC complaint against your company? Whatever you do, don’t lash out in anger!
It’s one of the worst things you can do. Raising your voice, making threats or otherwise showing your displeasure are surefire recipes for more litigation.
Here’s why: The employee can use your angry response to show that any later adverse action you took against her wasn’t for legitimate reasons, but was actually punishment for complaining to the EEOC. The angry words or gestures provide evidence that your real reasons behind your actions was the urge to strike back—in other words, retaliation.
Recent case: Mary Snow worked for Subway restaurants at several locations in stores owned by the same person.
When irregular working hours contributed to panic attacks and anxiety disorder that Snow suffered, she asked for a better schedule. Her boss didn’t comply, and she complained to the EEOC.
After Snow’s boss received the EEOC complaint, he confronted her and allegedly waved the papers in the air, yelling that she was trying to get him thrown in jail. He added that his lawyers could “bury” her.
Shortly after, Snow was sent home, allegedly because her uniform was dirty. The owner said she never reported back, but Snow said she was fired. She sued.
The court said her case should go to trial. Citing the owner’s behavior, it said a jury should decide whether the dirty-uniform incident was just an excuse to get rid of her because she filed a complaint. (Snow v. Khazeni, et al., No. 1:08-CV-0070, MD NC, 2009)
Advice: Don’t take lawsuits personally. They’re just another aspect of running a business. Angry talk only makes matters worse.
- How to Fire an Employee the Legal Way: 6 Termination Guidelines
- Pay Attention to New Proof-of-Age Requirement for N.Y. Employers
- Can law enforcement agencies prohibit uniformed officers from wearing religious garb?
- More reason to encourage safety: OSHA airing your dirty laundry
- Good planning limits fallout from FMLA misunderstandings