Filing a charge with the EEOC can be a precarious endeavor, but employees need to know the law protects them even after the file charging process has begun. An employer who retaliates could wind up under fire from both federal and state laws designed to prevent unfair backlash for discrimination in the workplace.
Both the EEOC and courts across the country have outlined the details concerning what qualifies as retaliation and what does not. It may take the help of a well qualified team of attorneys to assist with a claim to address retaliation. If so, you’ll at least need to be aware of the legal basis in order to have a good understanding of your options.
During the The Charge Filing Process
The process of filing a charge with the EEOC involves a few initial steps. In most cases, an employee must be sure to carefully follow guidelines for filing a grievance or complaint with human resources or other designated departments at their company first. The rules and specifics for doing so can usually be found in an employee handbook. Keep in mind that extra steps may be necessary based on the type of complaint being filed.
For instance, a sexual harassment claim may involve not only contacting the human resources department but also contacting other advisors or administrators within the company. Following company rules for filing complaints can be an essential aspect of the journey toward successful resolution of your issue if your company refuses to cooperate. In some instances, the law may require that these procedures are followed prior to going to court or filing an EEOC charge.
Once an employee does finally file a charge with the EEOC, he or she must do so within the timeframe outlined in the law concerning their particular complaint. For most federal law discrimination charges, an employee has 180 days from the last date of the discriminatory instance to file a charge with the EEOC. State offices may vary in terms of deadlines, so it’s always good to have a capable employment rights attorney at your side to ensure that all your filings are timely and in order.
The main point to remember is that before, during and after filing a charge of discrimination, employees are protected from the negative, retaliatory acts of an employer under both federal and state law.
Handling Relations at Work After Filing an EEOC Charge
According to federal law, an employer must ensure that his behavior after an employee has filed an EEOC charge against it remains fair and non adversarial. Retaliation is prohibited in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act as well as all of other federal employment rights laws enforced by the EEOC such as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Equal Pay Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination act.
Specifically, an employer must not fire, demote, or harass an applicant or employee because they filed a charge with a government agency, participated in discrimination proceedings, or filed a complaint or grievance about discrimination at their job. The provision prohibiting retaliation applies to all work situations including hiring, firing, promotions and benefits.
States, too, tend to regulate employer behavior in the wake of an EEOC charge. In California, an employer is prohibited from firing, demoting or disciplining an employee for speaking with or sharing information with a government agency. In Texas, as in a number of other states, state law emphasizes that employees are entitled to protection from discriminatory retaliation, but employees also have the responsibility to continue performing their jobs and follow legitimate workplace rules after filing a complaint or charge of discrimination or retaliation.
Alleging Retaliation: Know the Law
The primary basis of any claim of retaliation must be that some form of discrimination has taken place. The claim rests on allegations that the employer took action as the result of the employee’s reaction to the discrimination, either by filing a complaint or grievance with the company or by participating in cooperation with a governing agency.
Generally, a retaliation claim is based on three related parts. The first is adverse action. The employee must demonstrate that the employee took action as a result of or motivated by the employee’s decision regarding discrimination and show that that action was detrimental. In many cases such as when an employee’s hours are cut or the employee is fired or demoted, the detriment is quite obvious, but petty annoyances or justified negative comments do not qualify.
The main ingredient for adverse action is a demonstration that the employer in some way attempted to interfere with the employee’s right to oppose the discrimination he or she either experienced first-hand or witnessed resulting in a complaint or participation in discrimination proceedings.
The second element of a retaliation claim involves coverage of the law. An employee is a covered individual when he or she files a claim of discrimination based on race, color, national origin, age, sex, disability or religion. Even those closely associated with someone directly affected by such discrimination are considered covered individuals.
The last element for retaliation claims involves protected activity. Protected activity refers to steps the employee took in relation to or as a result of discrimination at work to inform an employer. This could be, as mentioned, filing a charge with the EEOC, filing a grievance with the company, participating in an EEOC investigation, or participating in discrimination court proceedings. It’s important to note that informing the employer must be based on a reasonable, good faith belief that the employer’s action violated anti-discrimination laws.
Even if an employer retaliates against an employee for filing charges of discrimination against a previous employer, the employer could be held liable for its actions. In addition, even if the participation involved claims of discrimination later found to be invalid, the employee is still protected from on-the-job retaliation.
Retaliation is Illegal
Without a doubt, discriminatory retaliation is illegal. Employees who experience wage cuts, demotion, termination, harassment or any other adverse action after informing their employer about discrimination are entitled to recovery for the losses they incur as a result. For more information about filing a complaint or charge of retaliation check with your state’s workforce commission, visit the EEOC website, or consult with an experienced employment rights attorney in your area.