Retaliation a common reason cited in federal workplace discrimination claims

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) resolved 97,443 workplace discrimination claims in 2016, securing more than $482 million from employers in the private and public sectors. According to the EEOC, the following were the top 10 reasons cited for workplace discrimination claims in fiscal 2016:

Retaliation: 42,018 claims (45.9 percent of all charges filed).

Race: 32,309 claims (35.3).

Disability: 28,073 claims (30.7).

Sex: 26,934 claims (29.4).

Age: 20,857 claims (22.8).

National origin: 9,840 claims (10.8).

Religion: 3,825 claims (4.2).

Color: 3,102 claims (3.4).

Equal Pay Act: 1,075 claims (1.2).

Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA): 238 claims (0.3).

(Note: These percentages add up to more than 100, because some lawsuits alleged multiple reasons for discrimination.)

Retaliation lawsuits

Retaliation lawsuits are brought after an employee alleges an employer has fired, demoted, harassed or otherwise retaliated against him or her for filing a charge of discrimination or assisted with a job discrimination investigation or lawsuit. Retaliation claims are the most frequently filed charge of discrimination.

The number of retaliation lawsuits may continue to rise due to new regulations proposed by the EEOC. Last year, the EEOC released a sub-regulatory document that provides guidance on its view of what constitutes actionable retaliation.

For instance, the document broadens what constitutes a “causal connection” between protected activity and adverse action. It says “protected activity” can occur explicitly or implicitly, and expands the definition of an “adverse action” to include anything that could reasonably deter protected activity, even if the action does not have a tangible effect on an individual’s employment.

What employers should do

Discrimination lawsuits can be very time-consuming and expensive for employers and can result in a loss of employee morale or reputation within the community.

→ Employers should take the following steps to protect themselves from retaliation and other discrimination claims:

→ Audit their practices to uncover any problematic situations and practices.

→ Create a clear anti-retaliation policy that includes specific examples of what management can and cannot do when disciplining or terminating employees.

→ Provide training to management and employees on anti-retaliation and other discrimination policies.

→ Implement a user-friendly internal complaint procedure for employees.

→ Uphold a standard of workplace civility, which can reduce retaliatory behaviors.

Disclaimer and publishing credit: This HR Insights is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as professional advice. © 2016 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.