First let me make it clear that by saying “stupid HR” I am not pointing a finger at the HR department, most the time. Generally I am pointing out an action taken by a company that is an illegal action. In this example it is a “stupid HR” action taken by the president of a company.
According to a press release from the EEOC, a burial company fired an employee for participating in an EEOC investigation. Peggy Knox had worked for her employer since 1983 as an administrative assistant. During the summer of 2015 the company was investigated for an EEOC complaint filed by another employee. When the EEOC showed up on the company’s doorstep Knox answered their questions. In September of 2015 the company’s owner and president attend a conference with the EEOC about the case. According to the EEOC “Within hours of attending the conference, Knox was fired because of her cooperation with the EEOC.” Subsequently the EEOC has filed suit against the company for retaliation and are seeking “back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages for Knox, as well as injunctive relief designed to prevent such discrimination in the future.”
Terminating an employee for participating in an investigation is in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the same as if you discriminated against them for being in a protected class. Retaliation is the most frequent case the EEOC deals with.
Don’t put your employee in an untenable position
Apparently the president of the company did not expect Ms. Knox to answer the EEOC’s questions, or if she did she was to lie. I doubt someone can plead the 5th with the EEOC. Expecting employees to lie for you is not only unethical it is also against the law, as the owner found out. Don’t put your employees in the position of having to lie, hide evidence or doctor evidence to defend the company. They can be charged with perjury, which can bring with it some severe penalties. It is a felony.
Avoid the reason to be sued
In reality, it is better to avoid creating an action or reason that will get you sued. Know the law, obey the law, and if the EEOC or Department of Labor comes knocking at your door work with them to understand what was done incorrectly so you can correct it. Don’t make them investigate to determine what you did illegally. Conduct your business legally, in accordance with the EEOC, DOL, FLSA, OSHA, and others and you won’t have to worry about investigations or lawsuits.