An increasing focus of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is addressing retaliation claims, which involve allegations that an employer has treated an individual in a punitive manner based on:
- The employee’s filing of a discrimination charge.
- Complaining to an employer or other covered entity about on-the-job discrimination.
- Participating in an investigation or lawsuit related to an employment discrimination proceeding.
Even if the EEOC determines that the employer committed no discriminatory acts, it remains still illegal to take action against an employee for filing charges with the EEOC.
Eight year rise
Retaliation claims have been on the rise nationally for eight years, according to a recent report in The Washington Post. There were 38,539 retaliation charges reported to the EEOC in 2013 alone. Fiscal year 2013 also represents the fifth consecutive year that retaliation claims ranked as the most commonly reported form of workplace discrimination, overtaking claims of race-based discrimination.
The national trend is reflected on a regional level, with spikes in retaliation claims in the region ranging from 18% in Virginia to 52% in Washington, D.C.
Experts attribute the rise to a combination of factors, the most prominent of which may be heightened employee awareness of rights and greater willingness to exercise them. The potential field of retaliation claimants has also grown as a result of several major legal decisions that expanded the grounds upon which claimants may sue. This pertains both to the types of employer conduct considered retaliation and the parties eligible to make claims of retaliation.
Which retaliatory actions are forbidden?
As it stands, retaliation related to any aspect of employment is forbidden. This includes:
- Hiring and firing
- Pay rates
- Job assignments and promotions
- Training, fringe benefits, and layoffs
When employees levy retaliation claims, businesses require experienced counsel capable of defending against such claims.