Both federal and state law protect employees and applicants from employer retaliation for engaging in activity that is protected by anti-discrimination laws.
You cannot retaliate against employees for participating in activities to further the enforcement of employment discrimination laws.The retaliation prohibition is quite broad and includes retaliation against a person who objected to a practice that is legal but that the person reasonably believed to be illegal. Protection from retaliation is not limited to applicants and employees; it covers all individuals, including former employees.
An employee who thinks he/she was discriminated against has the right to bring up the matter with a supervisor, other persons in management or a government agency. Any retaliation for making a complaint is strictly illegal, whether the retaliation is obvious (such as discharging the complaining person) or subtle (such as denying a merit increase for being “uncooperative”).
Do not view a complaint as a sign of disloyalty. Take complaints seriously and investigate them objectively. Although some discrimination complaints are insincere and harassing, the majority are sincere complaints of perceived mistreatment.
Retaliation at work can sometimes take subtle forms. Make sure you train managers on the scope of whistleblower protections. Measures which may help prevent retaliation in the workplace include:
- Educate employees, especially supervisors, on what constitutes retaliation and the company’s policy against it.
- Watch out for the subtle signs of retaliation against an employee, such as ignoring, isolating or undermining the employee, or changing expectations relating to the employee’s performance.
- Implement effective complaint procedures that prohibit retaliation.
- Limit the sharing of information regarding employee complaints to those who have a legitimate business need to know the information. Let those employees know that any retaliatory conduct taken against the complaining employee is prohibited.
- Gather, rely on and document objective facts when making hiring and other employment decisions.
- Carefully review discipline and termination decisions that involve individuals who participated in a complaint of unlawful workplace conduct. Consult legal counsel if necessary.