What retaliation in the workplace may look like

Shunning an employee is an act of retaliation that can be reported to the EEOC.
Shunning an employee is an act of retaliation that can be reported to the EEOC.

If you have read any of my blogs you know that I have written a number of times about retaliation in the workplace. I recently listened to a webinar presented by my friends of the Atlanta office of Freeman, Mathis & Gary. In their presentation they had a slide that delineated the most common complaints of retaliation according to a survey conducted by the Ethics Resource Center. I think you will be interested to see what retaliation really looks like.

Not termination

I think many people think that if a company retaliates against someone for filing a complaint with the EEOC they are most likely to lose their job. Although that may happen most companies are savvy enough to know that will get them in immediate trouble, so terminations are avoided. Retaliation takes more subtle forms. Here is the list of forms from the 2009 survey mentioned:

  1. 62% of the complaints of retaliation were due to being excluded from decisions at work. Were previously the employee might have been included in a decision they are now excluded from participation
  2. 60% of the complaints alleged being “shunned” at work, which may include not being talked to or even acknowledged as being in the same room.
  3. 55% claimed their bosses became verbally abusive toward them.
  4. 48% said they had almost lost their job.
  5. 43% said they had been passed over for a promotion or a raise as a result of filing the complaint.
  6. 42% reported that fellow employees became abusive toward them. Everybody rallies around the supervisor situation.
  7. 27% reported being relocated or reassigned. This is akin to being reassigned to a base in Alaska in the military.
  8. 20% just reported general retaliation.
  9. 18% reported they had been demoted. I think this is low because, like firing, most companies understand this is too obvious.
  10. 4% reported being physically attacked or having their property vandalized.

As you can see retaliation can take many guises and HR or upper management needs to be aware of the possibility of this kind of retaliation.

What to do

In any situation where a discrimination complaint has been filed by a current employee awareness is the watch word for HR. The attorneys at FMG recommend that you have a procedure for employees filing complaints with a form that reports the information they are alleging. Based on this form an investigation needs to conducted. Whether or not the complaint is founded HR needs to make sure that the supervisor or manager is warned not to retaliate. This warning needs to include this list of forms of retaliation along with a warning that HR will be monitoring the behavior and relationships of the parties involved. You may not be able to mend fences but you certainly need to insure the parties are civil to each other, but it would be a good idea to get them to mend fences.

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