As long as employees have the right to complain about discrimination and harassment in the workplace, there will also be retaliation claims. But is there anything a California employer can do to limit them?
In the last few years, businesses across the country have seen an increase in retaliation claims. In fact, a record 38,539 retaliation charges were reported in fiscal year 2013 to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency that enforces anti-discrimination laws in the workplace. From 2013 to 2014, the amount of charges alleging retaliation reached its highest percentage ever: 42.8% or, in other words, two out of every five charges filed with the EEOC alleged some type of employment retribution or retaliation. The claims include employee allegations of being demoted, fired or denied promotions in retaliation for complaining about race, gender or other types of discrimination in the workplace.
Why is retaliation such a popular claim?
Some view the increase in workplace retaliation claims as an indication that people’s attitudes about workplace discrimination may be evolving. Without a doubt, recent Supreme Court decisions have made it easier for employees by lessening the burden for employees to bring and sustain retaliation claims. An employee need only show that the employer’s challenged action “might well have” dissuaded a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination.
So what can employers do?
· Make sure your policies on discrimination and harassment specifically prohibit retaliation. Need to update your employee handbook? Talk to an experienced business attorney.
· Keep all employees well-informed on company policy against retaliation and when and how to report concerns.
· Simplify the process for employees to raise concerns. The sooner an employee raises an issue, the easier it is to resolve.
· Avoid any changes in the complaining party’s duties, compensation, benefits, title, etc… that could be characterized as an adverse action during the period right after the employee complains and until you’ve spoken with legal counsel.
· Monitor the situation closely.
· Keep thorough records and document every detail of the complain, ensuing investigation, etc…
For additional guidance on how to minimize your company’s exposure to retaliation claims in the workplace, contact business attorney Drew E. Pomerance today.