The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has filed suit against Philadelphia-employer, Verizon, alleging unlawful retaliation. The complaint was filed on behalf of former service technician, Theresa Allen, who worked at the company’s Bryn Mawr facility until last year. Allen, who is in her 50s, was the only female employee at that location until October 2006.
According to the EEOC’s complaint, Allen was sexually harassed during the 21 years of her employment by being exposed to pornographic magazines, which were commonly left out in the open in the workplace. She was also subjected to inappropriate physical contact.
Philly.com reports that, in August 2006, Allen began to complain to management about the various offenses. In September, Allen claims, after the conduct had not ceased despite her complaints, a plastic rat was hung in the service technician’s garage. She removed the rat but it reappeared several times. Phrases like “Ratteri” and “Stop telling on everybody” were written in various places around the garage. Allen was fired in February 2007, allegedly for taking home two cups of rock salt, which she claims to have later replaced with a 10-pound bag.
Minimizing retaliation claims
There are a number of ways you can reduce your likelihood of being faced with a retaliation claim, including the following:
- Ensure that you have a policy prohibiting retaliation included in your harassment and discrimination policies.
- Make sure your policies clearly state that suspected retaliation must be reported, and provide employees several avenues through which they can do that.
- Train all supervisors and managers so they know that it’s unlawful to retaliate against employees for protected activity. That includes formal charges of discrimination as well as internal complaints about harassment or discrimination.
- When you receive a complaint about unlawful activity or are charged with discrimination, protect the source of the complaint as much as possible. One of the best defenses to a retaliation claim is to be able to show that the person who supposedly retaliated wasn’t even aware of the charge or complaint in the first place. Of course in many situations, the employee’s immediate supervisor must be told about a complaint so that an adequate investigation can be conducted.
- Treat the complaining employee like nothing has changed. Of course, filing a charge or internal complaint doesn’t insulate the employee from future disciplinary action.