Seyfarth Shaw Labor and Employment partner Colleen Regan is quoted in a June 15 edition of Human Resource Executive article encompassing the recent surge in employees suing employers for retaliation.
The article explains that employees typically allege they were retaliated against because they complained of a problem such as harassment, discrimination or workplace conditions or because they requested an accommodation based on a disability or religion. "...as the rights of the disabled have been expanded, there has been a rise in claims relating to disabilities and with that, an increase in employees who say they were retaliated against for making those claims," says Colleen.
Some quoted in the article believe that the cause of the surge in retaliation claims can be tied to the fact that courts and administrative agencies have made it easier for employees to prevail, and new laws and regulations have expanded what can be considered protected activity. However Colleen looks at the issue from several angles. She has also seen more of a willingness among employees to use retaliation claims as covers for their poor job performance. She cites two recent cases in which women, fearing they would be fired for poor performance, apparently filed sexual-harassment complaints so that, if they did get fired, they could claim retaliation.
Colleen concludes by positing ways to prevent against retaliation claims. "You want to train your managers on how to receive a complaint from an employee without getting defensive," she says. "Don't just blow employees off even if you can't give them a remedy, they will feel like you're listening." The article explains the best way HR leaders can protect their organizations is to create a culture that gives employees confidence they will not be retaliated against if they complain.