Last year, workplace retaliation lawsuits exceeded the number of lawsuits filed for discrimination based on race, sex, disability, or religious discrimination, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Previously, retaliation lawsuits were viewed as a "throw-in" claim to discrimination lawsuits. But retaliation claims are now standing alone, reports Inside Counsel.
And as the number of claims go up, the amount of damages that companies pay out is going up as well. In 2011, the EEOC reported that damages related to retaliation surpassed $100 million for the first time, with employers paying out $147 million.
To avoid becoming another EEOC statistic, here are three tips to prevent a workplace retaliation lawsuit:
- Train Employees About Retaliation. Many companies train their employees about discrimination and harassment, focusing on race and sex discrimination. But for the most part, managers are savvy enough to realize that employees mocking someone's race or being overly sexually suggestive is not right. While discrimination typically gets all the attention, you may want to also focus on retaliation too. Unlike race and sex discrimination, managers and supervisors may be unaware about the dangers of retaliation, or even what illegal retaliation actually entails.
- Create an Anti-Retaliation Policy. As mentioned above, employers tend to focus on blatantly discriminatory acts and ignore retaliation. So if you do have a discrimination and harassment policy, you may want to include retaliation as well. By publicizing the illegalities and dangers of retaliation, you are making your managers and supervisors aware of this growing problem.
- Document Everything. If you have to fire, discipline, or take some sort of negative action against an employee who has engaged in protected conduct like filing a discrimination complaint, whistle-blowing, or engaging in union activities, you must make sure to document all the reasons you are taking the negative action. Without the proper documentation for your acts, you could be seen as acting in a retaliatory manner.
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