The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that the number of retaliation-based claims has significantly increased since 2007, when 26,663 charges were filed, to 37,632 in 2020. Employees are increasingly aware of their rights and do not hesitate to act on them. While this is an important step forward for a workforce that previously had little recourse against harassment and discrimination, it can make terminating an employee more difficult..
Employers and businesses in Florida can face serious legal issues when a former or current employee files a retaliation claim. A retaliatory action is when a company takes adverse action against an employee who has complained about harassment or discrimination or reported alleged company wrongdoing (whistleblowing). Examples of retaliation include:
- The employee’s termination
- Reduction in pay and loss of benefits
- Disciplinary action
- Denying them a promotion they are otherwise qualified for or demoting them
- Creating a hostile work environment
Although there is no guarantee that an employee won’t try to accuse you of retaliation, the steps below can reduce the likelihood of a successful suit.
Establish a Strict Policy Against Employment Discrimination
Workplace cultures that discourage harassment, discrimination, and retaliation are less likely to experience a retaliation claim. An employment discrimination policy should:
- Outline the process for reporting incidents to the employer
- Explain how a complaint is handled
- Describe any disciplinary action that will be taken against offenders
Develop a Policy Implementation Training Program For Managers
It is recommended that workplaces provide their managers with training on the discrimination policy so that they can foster a culture and environment free of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.
Incorporate Termination Procedures into the Employee Handbook
Termination should not be unexpected. Your employee handbook should explain the company’s right to discipline and terminate employees for unacceptable behavior. When someone is fired for reasons listed in the employee handbook, it is harder to claim retaliation. All efforts to correct problem behaviors should be documented, including formal disciplinary actions.
Be Consistent in Applying Policies
A retaliation claim often arises when an employer responds differently to one employee than to others. A retaliation claim could arise if you terminate an employee for repeated tardiness following a sexual harassment complaint, especially if other perpetually tardy employees were never terminated.
A successful retaliation claim can damage your business’s reputation and even its operation. If you need to terminate an underperforming employee after they have filed a complaint with the EEOC or similar entity, contact Trembly Law Firm to review your situation. We have advised many Florida employers on the best way to navigate such a legally precarious situation and will recommend the best solution to the problem.