Today, let’s talk about the employee who claimed sexual harassment because her male co-worker constantly stared at her with an erection — which she subsequently photographed and showed to other co-workers, and all of that morphed into a retaliation claim.
So, basically, this post will be like a sophisticated bar exam question.
Are you guys old enough to remember that old NFL Films Dial ‘M’ For Moron bit? What can I say? I’m a sucker for the classics.
Well, it’s all I could think of after reading this EEOC press release, highlighting a recent race discrimination and retaliation action against a car dealership because it did the equivalent of Dial ‘M’ For Moron.
You received a complaint of sexual harassment from a female employee against a male co-worker.
So, you promptly investigate, during which you interview the complainant and the alleged harasser, and review documents. When the investigation ends, you conclude that the female complainant — not the male co-worker — was the sexual harasser. So, you promptly fire the female employee.
Legally, did you do anything wrong? Well, notwithstanding the factual twist, it doesn’t seem that way. But things aren’t always as they seem. And I’d get a day off from blogging if this one were that straightforward
Since 1998, when the EEOC issued a compliance manual on retaliation, the percentage of EEOC private sector and state and local government charges alleging retaliation has practically doubled.
Think about it. An employee complains to the company about some form of discrimination. Then that employee gets fired. So, that employee files a Charge of Discrimination at the EEOC. Inevitably, that employee will likely check two boxes. The first box will be the underlying claim of discrimination, which will vary based on the the employee’s protected class (e.g., race, religion, national origin, etc.). The other checked box will be retaliation — every time. That’s why retaliation is the most common Charge filed at the EEOC.
Yesterday, the EEOC updated its guidance on retaliation and related issues.