Grace Hill Training Tip of the Week
What Do Your Employees Know About Retaliation?
Recently, the EEOC announced preliminary sexual harassment data from the 2018 fiscal year (FY).
Based on the preliminary data, in FY 2018:
- The EEOC filed 66 harassment lawsuits, including 41 that included allegations of sexual harassment. That reflects more than a 50 percent increase in suits challenging sexual harassment over FY 2017.
- In addition, charges filed with the EEOC alleging sexual harassment increased by more than 12 percent from FY 2017.
- Overall, the EEOC recovered nearly $70 million for the victims of sexual harassment through litigation and administrative enforcement in FY 2018, up from $47.5 million in FY 2017.
The increase in charges filed with the EEOC, along with the heightened awareness brought about by the #MeToo movement and the promotion of prevention strategies such as bystander intervention, make it more important than ever that employees and supervisors are aware of another illegal behavior: retaliation.
A manager may not fire, demote, harass or otherwise retaliate against an individual for filing a complaint of discrimination, participating in a discrimination proceeding, or otherwise opposing discrimination. This type of behavior is called retaliation and it is illegal.
Anti-retaliation laws serve important purposes. Not only do they protect employees from retaliatory behavior, but they also help ensure that people are not discouraged from speaking out against discrimination or participating in the EEOC’s administrative process or other employment discrimination proceedings.
To address retaliation, organizations must recognize the potential for retaliation and also make sure supervisors know the acceptable and unacceptable responses to protected activity under the law.
If you are in a supervisory role, here are some important things to know:
- If an employee complains to you about discrimination or harassment, you must treat that employee with care. Any action you take which the employee could view as punishment or retaliation for the complaint might be construed as illegal retaliation, and result in legal action against you and your company.
- Make sure that no one is treated differently for voicing a concern, and don’t avoid an employee who has done so. This might create a retaliation claim instead of preventing one.
- It is also important to have thorough and timely communications with HR, and document all supervisor actions involving employee counseling and discipline, complaints, or other possible situations which could be used to create a retaliation claim.
While it may be difficult not to take an EEO allegation personally, it is important, if you are involved in such a situation, to take a step back to consider your reactions.
A negative change of behavior toward an employee after an EEO allegation can be perceived as retaliatory.
Here are some ways you, as a supervisor, can prevent retaliation:
- Avoid publicly discussing the allegation
- Do not share information about the EEO activity with any other managers or subordinates
- Be careful not to isolate the employee
- Avoid reactive behavior such as denying the employee information, equipment, or benefits provided to other employees who are performing similar duties
- Do not interfere with the EEO process
- Provide clear and accurate information to the EEO staff, EEO Investigator, or judge
- Do not threaten the employee, witnesses or anyone else involved in the processing of a complaint