In addition to the many laws that prohibit employers from discrimination or harassment, these laws also protect employees from workplace retaliation. Retaliation occurs when an employer punishes an employee for engaging in legally protected activity, and can result in any negative job action, such as demotion, discipline, firing, salary reduction, job or shift reassignment, or missing out on training or mentoring opportunities. In fact, workplace retaliation made up almost 43% of all claims filed in 2014, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Now the EEOC is looking for ways to reduce retaliation in the workplace, holding a meeting of commissioners last week to discuss this front-and-center issue. “When retaliation makes employees too afraid to report discrimination, it creates a climate in which discrimination can thrive, affecting businesses’ bottom lines and undermining the basic right to equal employment opportunity,” said Commissioner Charlotte A. Burrows in a press release issued by the EEOC.
Most in attendance at the meeting agree that customized employer training and timely intervention are critical to prevent and correct workplace retaliation. In addition, supervisors should be trained to recognize and respond to complaints of discrimination.
The commissioners also recommend best practices such as distributing a non-retaliation policy to all employees be implemented. “Employers should have effective complaint procedures in place and create workplaces where employees not only feel comfortable reporting instances of retaliation, but also understand the importance of doing so,” said Dexter R. Brooks, associate director of Federal Sector Programs for EEOC.
Federal law protects employees from retaliation when employees complain — either internally or to an outside body such as the EEOC — about workplace discrimination or harassment. That’s true even if the claim turns out to be unfounded, as long as it was made in good faith. Moreover, the law also protects employees who cooperate in EEOC investigations or serve as witnesses in EEOC investigations or litigation. A recent Supreme Court case confirms that an employee’s participation as a witness in an internal investigation is protected, too. Various federal laws also protect other types of “whistleblowers”, such as those who complain of unsafe working conditions.
In addition to having strong company policies in place with a workplace culture to prevent and rectify retaliation, all businesses should carry comprehensive Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) coverage. EPLI is designed to cover employers from claims made by workers who have sued the company for violating their legal rights as employees. Potential lawsuits include claims for sexual harassment, breach of employment contract, wrongful termination, discrimination and failure to hire or promote. Retaliation claims are also covered under an EPLI policy.
Caitlin Morgan can assist you in providing Employment Practices Liability Insurance to your clients. We work with multiple carriers and provide a broad spectrum of management liability coverages include D&O, EPLI and Fiduciary insurance. Give us a call at 877.226.1027 to discuss your client’s needs.