- A part owner of Rainbow Tree LLC sexually harassed an employee, punished her and fired her when she complained about the conduct, according to a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
- The part owner of the catering service, also a manager, made unwanted, "repeated sexual advances" toward the plaintiff while they worked an event in Tucson, Arizona, the EEOC said. When the employee returned from Tucson, she arrived late to work after receiving permission to do so. The manager punished her for this and reduced her weekly shifts from five to one. After the worker complained about the sexual harassment she faced, the manager terminated her employment, the EEOC said.
- In addition to back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages, the EEOC seeks "appropriate injunctive relief to prevent discriminatory practices in the future."
Retaliation charges made up more than half of charges filed with the EEOC in its 2018 fiscal year, the agency said in statistics it released in April. The charges soar so high because the EEOC often adds on a retaliation charge to a discrimination or harassment charge, Fisher Phillips Regional Managing Partner Christine Howard told a room of HR professionals at the Society for Human Resource Management 2019 Annual Conference; "Nine out of 10 times, when we get an EEOC claim, they're going to tack on a retaliation claim," she said.
Retaliation occurs after an employee has committed some act of protected activity — some form of opposition to discrimination or harassment. A manager or supervisor commits retaliation by taking an adverse employment action against the employee who complained. Employers should note that courts may find retaliation even when they rule that no discrimination or harassment occurred. The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, for example, found that the firing of a postal worker was retaliatory even though it found no evidence of discrimination.
Because retaliation is such a risk, employers should provide training to prevent it from happening, according to Constangy Brooks, Smith & Prophete Partner Robin Shea. Additionally, employers may want to create a safe space for managers who are named in complaints alleging harassment. The claim may or may not be true, but managers need to speak about their frustration to someone uninvolved with the complaint so they can return to the workplace with a professional disposition, Shea previously told HR Dive.