Retaliation Claims are on the Rise: How to Avoid Them

As reporting on suspected wrongdoing reaches historic highs, 2017 saw a 100 percent increase in retaliation claims. The 2018 Global Business Ethics Survey uncovered this shocking statistic. Driving the higher numbers are social and demographic trends, along with expanded employment laws at the state and federal levels that provide expanded protection of employees against retaliation.

The onus to prevent it, under U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regulations, is squarely upon the employer, making it illegal to fire, demote, harass or otherwise retaliate for these reasons against either job applicants or employees. Retaliation can be stealthy and difficult to catch, so employers must be diligent and methodical in efforts to prevent it.

There are several critical elements to doing so:

Ensure a robust policy and documentation process is in place.
Policies must be highly defined and regularly communicated to everyone in the organization. And the moment human resources or any member of management hears of a complaint, they must document every single detail—everything contained in the complaint, every action taken by the company, and every conversation had with other employees.

Maintain confidentiality while investigating and resolving a complaint.
The more members of the organization who are brought into the discussion, the more likely it becomes that someone will make a comment or take an action that could be construed as retaliation. Limit the players to those immediately involved, and stress strict confidentiality to each.

Work with both sides of the complaint.
Emotions run very high when misconduct is reported. When an employee files a complaint, take it seriously and with discretion, treat them with respect, and let them know the organization will not abide retaliatory behavior. At the same time, realize the employee against whom the complaint is filed will probably be quite upset and defensive. Remind him or her of what constitutes retaliation and its potential consequences for the company.

Training is imperative.
In recent years, legal developments have significantly broadened the scope of anti-retaliation protection and lowered the burden for establishing unlawful behavior. This has given rise to the spike in retaliation claims and has made them much more difficult to defend. It is critical to educate managers and supervisors.

Syntrio’s 45-minute course, Preventing Unlawful Retaliation, discusses the protections afforded to employees under various employment laws. Using scenarios and case studies, the course discusses the types of work-related activities that are protected by law, the types of behavior that can lead to a charge, and the risks of failing to take steps to prevent unlawful retaliation in the workplace.

Syntrio is a leader in the human resources and employment law fields (as well as ethics and compliance) and is prepared to help your company implement a compliance program aimed at reducing the potential impact of harassment, discrimination and other employment law issues your organization may face. Syntrio takes an innovative philosophy towards employment law training program design and strives to engineer engaging, entertaining, and thought-provoking content.

Contact for more information about our discrimination, harassment, and prevention of retaliation online courses and remember to follow us on Facebook, TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on corporate compliance that impact your company.

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