The basic premise of the retaliation prohibition is that an employer can’t take an adverse action against someone who engaged in protected activity. But remember, this protection also extends to those closely associated with the covered individual. How close it close enough? Well, it depends on the facts, but the courts have provided some contours (i.e., a BFF or spouse is close enough, a mere acquaintance is not).
Wal-Mart recently missed the boat on this by refusing to hire an employee’s adult children, allegedly because the employee (aka mom) had filed a sex discrimination lawsuit. The EEOC pursued the case and obtained a nearly 100,000 settlement for the plaintiffs. Wal-Mart also agreed to to train its managers on retaliation.
The case is a good reminder that retaliation remains a hot topic. The EEOC spokesperson on the case made the following statement:
“Retaliation continues to be a high priority for the EEOC – it always was, and under our national Strategic Enforcement Plan, preserving access to the legal system is especially emphasized. We now receive more retaliation charges than any other kind of discrimination charges — over 42 percent of our charges contain retaliation allegations.”
Takeaway: Train your managers on the retaliation prohibitions. They are broader than one might think.