Pennsylvania employment lawyer Michael Moore has an excellent post on Five Things Every HR Generalist Should Know about Retaliation Claims.  Michael notes that the number of retaliation claims rose 18% in 2007 to a record high, doubling since 1992.  His post covers the following areas:

  • What is unlawful retaliation?
  • What is "Adverse Action" by an employer?
  • What is "Protected Activity by an employee?
  • Promptly investigate comments & complaints regarding discrimination.
  • Monitor supervisors for adverse action following an employee complaint.

In my experience, employers are usually cognizant of discrimination and harassment claims. However, they are often blindsided by retaliation claims. The successful resolution of a discrimination or harassment complaint means you are only halfway home. Supervisors and employees must not retaliate against the employee who complained. This is especially important because of a United States Supreme Court decision lowering the burden for employees to show retaliation.

Here are some proactive measures employers can take in order to avoid retaliation claims:

  1. Make sure your employee handbook includes a policy prohibiting retaliation.
  2. Always have alternative reporting avenues.
  3. Conduct supervisor and management training on harassment, discrimination and retaliation. 
  4. Make sure supervisors and management have been asked the tough questions when it comes to employee discipline. Make sure the discipline has nothing to do with the complaints of harassment, discrimination or retaliation. 
  5. Periodically talk with the complaining employee to determine if anyone has retaliated against them. If performance is an issue for the employee be sure to bring this to the attention of the employee and make sure to document your conversations. Document! Document! Document!

As always, be sure to consult your employment lawyer for advice in specific situations.