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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



Frequently Asked Questions

8. What is retaliation and how can I prevent it?

Retaliation occurs when employers treat applicants, employees or former employees, or people closely associated with these individuals, less favorably for:

  • reporting discrimination;
  • 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).

For example, it is illegal to fire an employee because she filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. This is true even if the EEOC concludes that the charge of discrimination does not have merit.

Retaliation is not only illegal, it's also bad for business. It is in your best interest for employees to feel comfortable reporting discrimination to you so you can investigate and address any conduct that violates the law or your company's policies.

To help prevent retaliation:

  • Inform employees that retaliation is prohibited;
  • Assure employees that they will not be punished for taking actions that are protected by law;
  • Respond to discrimination questions, concerns and complaints promptly and effectively;
  • Ensure that managers understand their responsibility to stop, address and prevent retaliation; and
  • Hold employees accountable for complying with and enforcing your discrimination rules and policies.

See also:

Preventing Retaliation Tips

Employee Rights

Manager Responsibilities - Treating Employees Consistently

Example - Justifying Inconsistent Treatment