Suppose you just found out that one of your crew members has alleged discrimination.
How would you react?
Let’s face it, no manager likes to hear that a staffer has a problem with the way things are being done. That’s why supervisors sometimes have a knee-jerk response to a bias claim and either fire the complainer or try to make his or her life unbearable.
But that can be a big mistake. Consider: More than half of the bias charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2021 included a retaliation claim.
Irony: Many times, the complainer doesn’t have enough evidence to prevail on the original discrimination allegation, but he or she has enough proof to make the retaliation charge stick.
That’s why it’s important to understand your legal responsibilities after a crew member has alleged bias.
First, you have to recognize the types of activities that qualify for protection against retaliation, including:
• filing an internal or an external charge of bias
• alerting a supervisor to discriminatory behavior
• requesting an accommodation for a disability or a pregnancy
Once an employee has engaged in any of these types of activities, proceed very carefully before taking any so-called adverse employment action against the person.
Potential adverse actions that could prompt a retaliation lawsuit include:
• work-related threats, warnings, or reprimands
• lower ratings on performance reviews
• transfers to a less desirable, less prestigious, or lower paying position
• closer scrutiny of the complainer’s work
Key: If you apply company policies consistently, your employer is less likely to be on the losing end in court should an employee later sue for retaliation.
(From the Feb. 3, 2023, issue of HR Managers Legal Alert for Supervisors. To start your no-obligation trial subscription to the publication right now, please click here.)