Business owners should not retaliate against an employee who files a discrimination complaint, even if the owner is certain of no wrongdoing.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission notes that of all the complaints it received in fiscal year 2019, most—39,110—alleged employers retaliated against workers who filed discrimination complaints.
“Receiving a charge or complaint of discrimination can be frustrating, especially when you are confident that you haven’t done anything wrong,” the EEOC said in a recent post featuring tips for small businesses.
“You may want to confront the employee who filed the complaint to demand an explanation, assert your innocence, or insist that he withdraw the complaint.”
An employer may even want to punish the employee with suspension or firing.
“Don’t do it,” the EEOC warned.
Suspending or firing the worker who filed the complaint may be illegal and will only make the situation worse, the agency said.
Instead, employers need to understand that it’s illegal to retaliate against or punish employees, former employees, or applicants for filing a local, state, or federal discrimination complaint against your business, taking part in a discrimination investigation or lawsuit, or threatening to file a complaint.
The EEOC said business owners should always:
- Treat the employee as if the complaint was never filed, the worker never assisted with an investigation, or never threatened to file a complaint
- Ensure employees understand your business’s discrimination policies and explain that retaliation is illegal and won’t be tolerated
- Encourage employees to share any concerns about discrimination with you, then respond promptly
- Hold employees accountable for complying with and enforcing discrimination policies