Each year, numerous workplace discrimination complaints are filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In 2020, retaliation was the most frequently cited claim, accounting for more than half of all charges filed.
Job applicants and employees have the right to work free from discrimination based on age, disability, national origin, race, religion, sex and other protected characteristics under federal and state laws. If an employer punishes them for any of these protected characteristics, it is considered retaliation.
The EEOC enforces laws that protect workers, whether they allege they have been discriminated against or witnessed discrimination toward others. To reduce the likelihood of a retaliation claim, employers should:
- Evaluate policies—Ensure incentive programs don’t intentionally encourage retaliatory action, such as performance numbers that are dependent upon meeting certain criteria.
- Create a hotline—Let employees report alleged discrimination anonymously. This allows issues to be investigated quickly with minimal disruption.
- Take immediate action—Preserve evidence, assess if additional retaliation may occur and investigate the claim. Using thorough information, an accurate evaluation of any claim is needed.
Employers should work with human resources to identify likely retaliatory situations and take immediate preventive action. For more workplace guidance, please reach out to us.