According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), last year marked the eighth consecutive year of growth for retaliation claims made by U.S. workers. Moreover, 2013 also was designated as the fifth consecutive year that retaliation claims exceeded race discrimination as the most commonly reported form of workplace discrimination.
Several factors may account for the year over year increase of retaliation charges, beginning with the fact that anti-retaliation protection is built into every law enforced by the EEOC. This means that a retaliation claim can be added on as a separate claim to any other claim of discrimination. Furthermore, because it is a separate claim, an employee can go forward with the retaliation claim, even if the original discrimination claim has been dismissed.
Another factor adding to the rise is likely the expanding definition of what may qualify as a retaliatory act by an employer. In the landmark 2006 U.S. Supreme Court case Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway Co. v. White, a new precedent for retaliation claims was set after a woman, following a charge of sex discrimination, claimed she was retaliated against by her employer. In this case, the woman was not demoted or fired, but rather was given new, more difficult assignments.
In other words, the term “retaliation” may not be as straightforward as it sounds. According to the EEOC, an employer is prohibited from firing, demoting, harassing, or otherwise retaliating against an employee who has filed a charge of discrimination, participated in a discrimination proceeding, or has otherwise opposed discrimination.
In addition to the widening scope of employer behavior that is considered retaliatory, the 2011 Supreme Court decision in Thompson v. North American Stainless, led to the expansion of who has standing to sue an employer. In that case, the anti-retaliation provision protected an employee who was fired shortly after his fiancé, who also worked for the employer, filed a charge of sex discrimination with the EEOC.
Post-employment retaliation rates are also becoming more common. Formerly limited to cases in which an employee receives a negative job reference from an employer about whom a complaint had been made, situations of post-employment retaliation can now be much more diverse. Refusal to give a job reference, denial or delays in post-employment benefits, and the spreading of rumors or gossip and have all been considered actionable offenses in retaliation lawsuits.
Ezold Law Firm, P.C.: Philadelphia Employment Lawyers Successfully Representing Employees in all aspects of Employment Discrimination
Retaliation in the workplace happens. If you have recently exercised your right to be treated fairly in the workplace by making a claim of discrimination, and that action has caused your employer or former employer to take retaliatory action against you, call the Philadelphia employment and labor lawyers at the Ezold Law Firm, P.C. With more than 20 years of experience, our highly skilled attorneys successfully represent employees and resolve issues for clients in all aspects of employment law. Call our Philadelphia retaliation attorneys today at (610) 660-5585 or complete our online contact form.