- A Citigroup employee has sued the company, alleging he was subjected to discrimination and retaliation for alerting the company to claims related to sexual harassment lodged against a potential hire, in violation of state law (Krauss v. Citigroup Inc., No. 155987/2020 (Sup. Ct., N.Y. County, Aug. 3, 2020)).
- When Citigroup shared plans to hire a director who had just days before resigned from Deutsche Bank, the plaintiff, Thomas Krauss, followed internal procedures to report concerns to HR, according to the lawsuit. He complained that management had circumvented its usual hiring process and that the prospective hire had resigned "amidst potential controversy involving several sexual harassment complaints," the complaint said.
- The individual was not hired, but Krauss allegedly became the target of discrimination and retaliation. His performance reviews suffered, as did his pay, he claimed. His supervisors also began disparaging his role in the company’s LGBT efforts, he alleged. A Citigroup spokesperson said via email that the company takes issues of this nature very seriously; "When Mr. Krauss’ concerns were first raised earlier this year, they were independently and thoroughly reviewed and not substantiated," the spokesperson said.
While it remains to be seen whether the court will find Krauss’ claims to have merit, the allegations provide a reminder for employers hoping to avoid such litigation.
For one, experts have previously recommended employers embrace their whistleblowers, shifting the corporate mindset from one of defensiveness to one that encourages feedback. "If you permit argument and encourage the airing of views from a variety of perspectives, you’re more likely to get a better outcome, with better ideas and better cohesiveness," Brad Cave, partner at Holland & Hart, previously told HR Dive. HR should implement a policy for reporting but also will have to ensure it is backed up with CEO buy-in a culture of non-retaliation, he and other sources suggested.
Employment law attorneys similarly recommend that HR train managers on applicable nondiscrimination laws, including anti-retaliation mandates. In fact, supervisors should receive separate, additional training, Robin Shea, a partner at Constangy Brooks, Smith & Prophete previously told HR Dive.
And when faced with complaints about discrimination, harassment or retaliation, HR should thoroughly investigate, attorneys recommend. A good-faith investigation coupled with action designed to prevent a recurrence of any misconduct discovered, can help an employer defend later claims.