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Promoting staff into management? Train on anti-retaliation laws

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

It’s often difficult for employees to move into management if they’ve grown comfortable in the rank-and-file world. They’re suddenly faced with directing—and sometimes disciplining—their former co-workers.

But there’s an even darker side to the switch. Sometimes, a new supervisor takes the opportunity to settle old scores with former co-workers. And that can create liability for the employer.

So before the promotion kicks in, teach your newly minted managers that federal laws prohibit supervisors from retaliating against workers for everything from taking FMLA leave to filing a workers’ comp claim.

Last year, retaliation became the most popular discrimination claim filed with the EEOC, ahead of even race discrimination. Remind employees to keep it professional—not personal.

Recent case: Xerox employee Vanessa Patterson, who is black, filed a sexual harassment complaint against a co-worker. The man was disciplined. For several years, all was fine.

Then one of the harasser’s friends was promoted, becoming Patterson’s boss. From the moment on, Patterson claimed, he set about punishing her for the sexual harassment charge she had lodged against his friend.

The new boss allegedly made racist comments, disparaged women in general and told Patterson he was going to “get her” because of her earlier complaint. She sued for retaliation and the court sent the case to trial. (Patterson v. Xerox Corp. and Peterson, No. 10-CV-6097, WD NY, 2010)

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