In August 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a press release showing retaliation is the most frequent claim of discrimination and exceeds 45% of claims of discrimination. At the National Institutes of Health (NIH), approximately 50% of filed formal complaints allege retaliation.
It is important to know that as a manager you 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. The same laws that prohibit discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability and genetic information also prohibit retaliation against individuals who oppose unlawful discrimination or participate in an employment discrimination proceeding.
Tips For Preventing Retaliation:
- Avoid publicly discussing the allegation;
- Do not share information about the EEO activity with any other managers or subordinates;
- Be mindful not to isolate the employee;
- Avoid reactive behavior such as denying the employee information/equipment/benefits provided to others performing similar duties;
- Do not interfere with the EEO process;
- Provide clear and accurate information to the EEO staff, EEO Investigator, or Judge; and
- Do not threaten the employee, witnesses or anyone else involved in the processing of a complaint.
Some of these things may be easier said than done. When someone is named as having committed an act of discrimination, it can be hurtful. It is hard to keep your emotions in check. As leaders, we have the obligation to maintain a level and steady hand and avoid treating individuals differently when they exercise their right to file a discrimination complaint. Be aware of your emotions. If you feel frustrated or hurt about an EEO complaint being filed, notice your triggers, and take breaks when needed. Go for a walk or phone a trusted colleague to vent. But don’t allow those emotions to cloud decision making or interactions with the employee who filed the complaint. This is where most managers struggle. Once a complaint is filed, this is the time to really review decisions and actions for objectivity. And run your decisions past folks you trust. Examine your interactions to ensure that there is no change in how you relate to the individual who filed the complaint. Call EDI for guidance if needed. We can help.
Other Factors That Contribute To Retaliation:
- A lack of administrative policies discouraging retaliation;
- An authoritarian management culture;
- Overly hierarchical organizations, where rank or organizational level is prized;
- High levels of task-related conflicts;
- Reward systems and structures that promote competition; and
- The ability of the accused to isolate the accuser.
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