The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, prohibits an employer from firing, demoting, harassing or otherwise retaliating against an employee who alleges that discrimination occurred, participates in a discrimination proceeding, or encourages a colleague to file a claim. The EEOC considers this type of retaliation a form of discrimination. In 2012, the EEOC received 37,836 claims alleging retaliation. Employers can take several steps to help prevent workplace retaliation claims.
Putting in place a non-retaliation policy is the most important step an employer can take to prevent workplace retaliation claims. The policy should make clear that retaliation will not be tolerated in the workplace and outline the steps a company will take if an employee alleges such retaliation occurs. The handbook should also include information about the steps an employee can take if she believes she has been retaliated against. An employer should include this policy in any handbook that employees receive at the outset of their employment.
Employers should provide training for all employees, not just managers and supervisors. This training should cover what retaliation includes, what activities the EEOC prohibits, and the process an employee can take if she believes retaliation has occurred. Employers may want to provide additional training for managers and supervisors, making their non-retaliation obligations clear if an employee alleges retaliation occurs.
Employers should document every step they have taken to reduce the risk of or otherwise prevent workplace retaliation claims. Ask employees to sign a form acknowledging they have received their employee handbook and understand all policies included in it. Keep a list of the employees who receive non-retaliation training. An employer may also want to consider reviewing a company’s non-retaliation policy with employees who take on management or supervisory roles and document that such a review took place.
Taking Appropriate Action
If an employee alleges workplace retaliation occurs, an employer should follow the steps outlined in the company policy. Employers should investigate and address these allegations, even if they prove unfounded. Employers should keep all investigations and conversations with employees about allegations of retaliation confidential.
If an employee alleges that her supervisor retaliated against her in some way, an employer should consider letting the employee report to a different person in the company. Employers must make sure that any changes do not appear retaliatory. Carefully considering all future actions regarding this employee, such as performance reviews or disciplinary actions, and making sure that the actions are warranted can also help prevent workplace retaliation from occurring.
- Nolo.com: Preventing Retaliation Claims by Employees
- Morse, Barnes-Brown, Pendleton PC: Avoiding Employee Claims of Unlawful Retaliation
- Epstein Becker Green: How to Stop a Retaliation Claim in Its Tracks, as appeared in New York Employment Law Letter
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Facts About Retaliation