Retaliation claims remain the most common of all discrimination charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In 2017, almost 49% of all EEOC filings involved workplace retaliation. Some recent examples highlight the impact of retaliation case settlements on an organization’s bottom line, not to mention reputation and productivity.
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and other laws, employers must not retaliate or punish an employee – fire, demote, harass or take other “adverse action” – for filing a discrimination complaint or participating in an internal investigation.
Candid Litho to pay $242,799 to settle sex discrimination, harassment and retaliation suit
This printing and graphic arts company fired a female production manager after she complained about being the target of regular and continuous discrimination and sexual harassment. The company also fired her son and fiancé without justification, the EEOC said.
Coral Gables Trust Company to pay $180,000 to settle sexual harassment and retaliation suit
A female executive assistant and marketing officer was subjected to a hostile work environment based on her gender. The company then retaliated against her after she complained. The hostile work environment included verbal and physical harassment at the main office and at various locations the employee visited on business trips.
Aqua Resources to pay $150,000 to settle racial harassment and retaliation suit
The EEOC said that a white superintendent and white foreman at the water service company repeatedly made derogatory and offensive comments to an African-American foreman and black employees. The company not only failed to stop the harassment, it instead promoted one of the harassers and even assigned him to supervise the African-American foreman. When the foreman complained to company management about the hostile work environment, he was fired.
Plastipak Packaging will pay $90,000 to settle a retaliation suit
A female employee, who had been placed at the manufacturing company by a temporary agency, was fired because she complained that one of its employee had sexually harassed her. Rather than investigate her complaint, Plastipak terminated her assignment.
Vador Ventures will pay $36,461 to settle an Equal Pay and retaliation suit
A commercial janitorial services company paid a female employee a lower wage than her male counterpart for equal work. When she complained about the wage disparity and asked that her pay be increased, the company retaliated by assigning her additional work, subjecting her to verbal harassment and firing her, the EEOC said.
Creating a retaliation-free workplace
The EEOC’s “Enforcement Guidance on Retaliation and Related Issues” offers tips to help organizations reduce the risk of retaliation violations and costly settlements. These include:
∙ Creating a written anti-retaliation policy that clearly states retaliation, in all its forms, is prohibited and retaliation against an employee or job applicant is subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.
∙ Implementing a formal complaint process for employees to report suspected incidents of retaliation, including an ethics hotline.
∙ Training all managers and supervisors on your anti-retaliation policy. Training should explain your policy and reporting procedures, provide examples of how and when retaliation can occur in your workplace culture, instruct managers on how to respond to retaliation complaints, and state the consequences for anyone engaging in retaliatory behavior.
With workplace retaliation claims comprising almost half of all EEOC charges filed, organizations should reassess their efforts to reduce retaliation incidents and claims. Training managers and supervisors on their responsibilities to maintain a retaliation-free workplace is an important step in addressing this pervasive problem and strengthening your anti-discrimination and harassment program.