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How Can Employers Protect Themselves from Claims of Retaliation?

How Can Employers Protect Themselves from Claims of Retaliation?

#lynchlaw #512attorney #lynchpin Dec. 7, 2022

How Can Employers Protect Themselves from Claims of Retaliation?

In a recent labor and employment case heard in federal court, a Houston jury awarded $365,000,000 in punitive damages and more than $1,000,000 in compensatory damages to a woman who accused her employer of retaliation. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant retaliated against her by terminating her employment after she alleged that she was a victim of racial discrimination. While it is still unclear if the amount of this award will stand on appeal, the results of this case are significant because it reveals that juries are often more sympathetic to retaliation claims than claims regarding discrimination.

Discrimination vs. Retaliation 

In this case, the defendant had previously warned the plaintiff about her unsatisfactory job performance and had implemented an improvement plan. The woman responded to the disciplinary action by accusing her employer of racial discrimination. Following an investigation by human resources and the management team, the organization determined that her job performance did indeed fall below company expectations, and they found no evidence of discrimination. Although the jury agreed that there was no merit to the plaintiff's underlying discrimination claim, they found in her favor because they believed that the company had acted against her in a retaliatory manner. 

Claims Alleging Retaliation Have Increased

Attorneys handling employment discrimination cases have become increasingly aware in recent years that juries are often more sympathetic to plaintiffs with retaliation claims than those who allege discrimination. In the past two decades, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claims to allege retaliation have increased while those involving discrimination have waned. As a result, attorneys for the plaintiffs are now building their cases around allegations of retaliation rather than discrimination.

How Can Employers Limit Their Risk?

The results of this recent case have many employers asking what they can do to protect themselves from claims that allege retaliation. To begin, every company should have policies and procedures that provide employees with multiple opportunities to report issues in the workplace. Employees should also be provided with an environment that allows them to feel safe when reporting issues that include discrimination or misconduct. It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for reporting a violation of the law. Still, employees should be assured that they will not experience reprisal if their complaints are made in good faith. If an employee issues a complaint, the management team must promptly respond to the reporting party. Even if management believes that the employee's complaint is not valid, those in supervisory positions must recognize that the employee has a right to express their concerns. The reporting party deserves to be heard and treated with respect. 

Employers must also take the necessary steps to be proactive to protect themselves from liability. 

·      Employers who invest in proper training for their management team can significantly reduce their exposure to labor and employment claims. 

·      Those in supervisory positions must be taught how to deal with employees who have received negative feedback and feel they are being mistreated. 

·      The management team should know how to best approach a reporting party because how they address the issue can significantly affect how the employee responds. 

·      Those in management must not engage in discriminatory behavior by treating employees with similar performance issues in an inconsistent manner. 

·      Employers must ensure no causal connection between an employee's right to express their concerns and the fact that their employment was terminated. 

Protect Yourself, Your Business, and Your Employees

The takeaway from this recent case is that it can be dangerous for an employer to act on employee complaints without consulting an experienced labor and employment attorney. A thorough and professional investigation may provide the information you need to assess liability and remediate the ineffective interpersonal dynamics within your organization. Protect your organization by scheduling a consultation with labor and employment lawyer Natalie Lynch to discuss your concerns. Natalie understands that the facts are rarely straightforward in discrimination investigations, and it can be challenging to determine the reasonableness of any claim. Allegations of this kind can inflame the emotions of involved parties. Natalie works to solicit genuine responses from the affected parties and decipher defendable, situation-specific conclusions that enable employers to protect themselves, their businesses, and their employees. 

About Attorney Natalie Lynch

Attorney Natalie Lynch is the managing member of the Lynch Law Firm. In addition to being a skilled labor and employment attorney, she is also a credentialed investigator and dispute resolution mediator with many years of experience collaborating with employers to help minimize employment risk factors. Natalie is the only consulting and credentialed investigator in Central Texas who conducts third-party investigations into allegations of harassment, discrimination, hostile work environment, and other issues. 

Call the Lynch Law Firm Now for a Free Consultation

The need for workplace discrimination prevention training is greater now than ever before. Not only does inappropriate and offensive behavior in the workplace expose the organization to liability, but it also affects employee well-being, morale, and productivity and harms the company's brand and reputation. 

Natalie Lynch and her team offer semi-customized and interactive training programs to help you provide a safer work environment for your employees. We offer training sessions in person and online. Call now to schedule complimentary consultation with the Lynch Law Firm. Contact Natalie Lynch by calling 512 298 2346 or emailing her