Retaliation in the Workplace Can Leave Your Company an Employee Short and Thousands in the Red

In sports and on the playground it is most frequently the retaliating party that gets caught and is subject to discipline. For example, in the recently concluded Stanley Cup Playoffs a Chicago Blackhawks player felt he had his progress impeded and hit his counterpart on the other team in the mouth with his stick. Although the referee missed the initial infraction, he certainly saw the retaliatory high-stick, and sent the Blackhawks player to the penalty box for a five-minute major penalty.  While the Blackhawks player was in the box the opposing team scored the game-winning goal.

You may be wondering why we are discussing hockey in a business ethics and human resources compliance blog. Although many human resources managers and high-level executives understand the concept of coaching their players to refrain from retaliatory tactics in the workplace, a surprising number do not understand that taking adverse employment action against employees who complain about something they even think is illegal in the workplace can have a devastating effect on business.

 Federal and State Laws Prohibit Retaliation

Many federal statutes contain anti-retaliation provisions that prohibit employers from taking adverse employment action (discipline, termination, suspension, harassment) against employees who complain about the employer’s illegal activity.  Further, state and federal anti-discrimination laws include retaliation under the umbrella of prohibited activity when employees complain to management about activity they even suspect is discriminatory or otherwise illegal (even though it may not turn out to be so).

Retaliation Scandal Rocks the Veterans Administration

Employees at Veterans Administration (“VA”) facilities in 19 states have filed complaints alleging illegal retaliation by the VA for complaints about non-compliant scheduling and coding procedures (among other illegal practices). One such complaint stated that an employee was suspended for seven days, had a performance review lowered, and was reassigned just after filing a complaint. Other employees were subject to reassignment and demotion after complaining about alleged mishandling of patient funds, inappropriate use of patient restraints, and other violations of VA rules and procedures.

In addition to the legal ramifications of retaliating against employees for reporting unsafe or discriminatory workplace practices, allowing a retaliatory business culture will undoubtedly drain workplace productivity. Further, as discussed above, although you may feel that an employee is burdening the workforce with his or her complaints, you must remember that the employee has the right to do so and it is the employer who will be caught by the “referee” (judge and jury) and will ultimately be penalized, either by way of costly litigation defense, a large settlement, or public stigma from a large jury verdict.

Cost-Effective Electronic Methods of Workplace Business Ethics Training can Reduce the Possibility of Retaliatory Management Tactics and Increase Employee Productivity

Online compliance training for non-retaliation and other important ethics and employment-related topics is easier and more cost effective than ever. Training companies like Syntrio, Inc. provide high quality training courses .that can be customized to reflect organizational policies and priorities. Periodic training in lawful and non-discriminatory employment practices is an essential part of an effective ethics and compliance program and essential for defending against charges of discrimination and retaliation.

Syntrio, Inc. specializes in providing business ethics and HR compliance training in an extremely comprehensive yet cost-effective and time sensitive manner. Contact us today at 888-289-6670 to discuss the ways Syntrio, Inc. can help your supervisors and HR Professionals ensure that they are up to date with state and federal laws regarding retaliation prevention, non-discriminaton, and other business and employment practices.


Posted in Managing Within the Law, Retaliation and tagged , , , , , , .