Just after yesterday’s blog post on What retaliation in the workplace may look like was published I received an announcement of an EEOC suit that confirms what I was talking about.
Harassment and retaliation
According to an announcement by the EEOC published on December 8th “Mayflower Seafood of Goldsboro, Inc., violated federal law by subjecting a female employee to a sexually hostile work environment and retaliating against her after she complained about the harassment and filed criminal charges against the harassers..” The employee, a cashier and server, alleges that the restaurant manager and several male employees subjected the female employee to verbal harassment and some physical harassment as well with inappropriate touching. She complained to her supervisor but the harassment continued. After filing a criminal complaint the employee had her work hours reduced, ultimately being removed from the work schedule completely.
The EEOC attempted to resolve this case through voluntary conciliation and when that did not work they filed their lawsuit in court. The EEOC seeks back wages for the employee and compensatory and punitive damages.
This certainly does not sound good for the company, of course no EEOC announcement will. The case has not gone to court so there is no decision on guilt or innocence. There are two parts of this however, the harassment and the retaliation. There is a possible scenario where the company could be found innocent of the sexual harassment charge. There may not be enough evidence of the hostile environment or proof of the touching charges.
The retaliation claim might be another issue. Given the timing of the reduction of hours and then removal from the schedule the court may find that the company engaged in retaliation for the FILING OF A CLAIM even though they may have been innocent of the original harassment. If the company cannot prove there is no connection between the filing and the job actions they may be held liable and the employee awarded the backs wages and fines.
Need to remember
Even if you are innocent of the behavior originally claimed in the harassment or discrimination claim if you then take a job action against the employee for having filed that claim you can be found guilty of retaliation. If you are having performance problems with the employee those problems need to be documented. Keep in mind however that excessive documentation just to “make your case” can also be construed as retaliation.
The best solution is to avoid bad EEO behavior in the first place.