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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



Tips for Small Businesses

Preventing Retaliation

Receiving a charge or complaint of discrimination can be frustrating, especially when you are confident that you haven't done anything wrong. 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. You may be inclined to punish the employee for filing the complaint, perhaps by suspending or firing him. Don't do it! These actions may be illegal, and they will only exacerbate the situation. So what should you do?

  • Understand your responsibilities. It is illegal for you to retaliate against (punish) applicants, employees or former employees for:
    • filing a complaint of discrimination with your business;
    • filing a charge of discrimination with a federal, state or local agency;
    • participating in a discrimination investigation or lawsuit (for example, serving as a witness); or
    • opposing discrimination (for example, threatening to file a charge or complaint of discrimination).
  • Don't take out your frustrations about the complaint on the employee. Treat the employee as if he had never reported discrimination, assisted with a discrimination investigation or lawsuit or opposed discrimination.
  • Treat employees consistently. Before making employment decisions that may negatively affect the employee, ensure that you are acting consistently with past practice or that you can justify treating the employee differently.
  • Explain your rules and expectations to employees. Ensure that employees understand your business's discrimination policies. Inform employees that retaliation is illegal and will not be tolerated.
  • Establish an open door policy. Encourage employees to share any concerns about discrimination with you. Respond promptly and effectively to discrimination questions, concerns and complaints.
  • Hold employees accountable. Ensure that employee policies are followed and enforced consistently. Hold employees accountable for complying with and enforcing discrimination policies.

See also:

What is retaliation and how can I prevent it?

Manager Responsibilities - Treating Employees Consistently

Example - Justifying Inconsistent Treatment

I'm training my staff about discrimination

I'm creating employee policies