Retaliation against an employee is prohibited by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Retaliation is a punishment by an employer by firing, demoting, harassing or performing any other negative workplace action in response to an employee's complaint.
If you have concerns about workplace retaliation, contact an attorney at Mays & Kerr to learn more about your legal rights and responsibilities.What is Retaliation?
Retaliation occurs any time an employer takes an adverse action against a covered individual who is engaged in a "protected activity" (described below). An adverse action is any action taken to prevent an employee from opposing a discriminatory practice. These actions can include threats, unjustified negative evaluations, increased surveillance or any other action that is meant to deter an employee from making a complaint. Other actions include refusal to hire, termination, or denying a promotion because an employee made a complaint.
Protected activities include:
- Letting an employer know that you believe that he or she is engaging in discriminatory practices
- Complaining to anyone about perceived discrimination
- Threatening to file a discrimination claim
- Participating in a picket opposing discrimination
- Refusing to follow an order that is perceived as discriminatory
In 2012, nearly 40,000 claims of retaliation were filed with the EEOC. The number of retaliation claims has been steadily increasing. The United States Supreme Court has continually strengthened employees' rights with respect to raising complaints about workplace discrimination and illegal business practices. Employers are not allowed to take any actions that may have the effect of dissuading an employee from participating in an investigation or making a complaint. This expansion of rights, however, has made claims of retaliation even harder to defend. Because retaliation is not limited to concrete actions such as firing or demotion, employers must be cautious about any business practices that could be considered retaliatory.Implement Clear Workplace Policies
Employers must implement clear policies and procedures for handling complaints in the workplace. It is a good idea to establish a multi-tiered system of review to ensure that one manager is not responsible for handling claims. Creating a system with multiple involved parties is a good business practice that can help ensure that discriminatory action is not taken against an employee who files a complaint. Even if the actions seem minor, they can be considered illegal if they have an adverse effect on an employee who has filed a complaint with the EEOC.
Because complaints are a protected activity, employers should do their best to facilitate the complaint process. Encourage employees to raise concerns with the human resources department and maintain communication with the employee to address issues. If lines of communication are open, it will be more difficult for an employee to claim that the employer took action to discourage complaints. Following these basic requirements will foster a productive working environment while protecting your business from discrimination claims.Trust Our Experienced Lawyers to Resolve Retaliation Claims
The attorneys at the law firm of Mays & Kerr are skilled at resolving allegations of retaliation. Because proving retaliation requires an intensive assessment of the entire situation, we conduct a thorough investigation into the circumstances leading up to the adverse action taken against the employee. Contact an attorney at Mays & Kerr today for advice and counsel.