Yesterday the Tampa Bay Business Journal reported that there has been an increase in retaliation charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The report noted that in 2010, 36.3% of the charges filed with the EEOC involved claims of retaliation. This compares with 29.5% of the charges included claims of retaliation. The EEOC reported that there were more retaliation claims in 2010 than race, sex, national origin, age, or disability discrimination claims.
In its report, the Business Journal interviewed Georgia Marchbanks, the new director of the EEOC’s Tampa Field Office who stated:
Part of the problem occurs when an employee files a discrimination claim that may have no merit. Supervisors tend to get angry and subconsciously or consciously treat the employee differently.
Marchbanks added that employers should properly train first line managers to avoid retaliation claims.
Retaliation occurs far too often. Again, the employee believes that he is being subjected to discrimination or harassment and complains to management or human resources. Next, the employee, who by the way has strong evaluations and never experienced disciplinary action, is receiving counseling statements on a regular basis. Eventually, this stellar employee is fired with his co-workers scratching their heads.
Retaliation claims can be very dangerous for an employer. Discrimination and harassment claims are difficult to prove given the possibility of summary judgment. If retaliation is present, an employee can breath life into a lawsuit that otherwise would have been dismissed if the employee pleaded the case solely as a discrimination or harassment action.
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