Businesses sometimes find themselves facing discrimination claims they believe are frivolous. When an employee has filed such a complaint, however, care should be taken by the company. If the complaining employee is one whose work is substandard, businesses must still be careful when planning to terminate the person’s employment.
The United States Supreme Court made it easier for employees to sue their employers for retaliatory discharge, which is a claim that a firing was done in retaliation for filing a discrimination complaint. In the case, a forklift worker complained about alleged sexual harassment by her supervisor. In response, the company suspended both the supervisor and the complaining employee and enrolled the supervisor in sensitivity classes. Following the complainant’s suspension, she was reassigned to a much more demanding job. The court ruled the reassignment was a retaliatory one even though she did not win on her claim of sexual harassment.
As this case shows, retaliation may take many forms in addition to firing a worker. Reassignments, demotions, layoffs and other actions may be deemed retaliatory under certain circumstances. It can be very important for an employer to document all actions leading to a decision to terminate an employee when a discharge from employment is in order.
When a business is facing an employee’s discrimination lawsuit, the business may need to be proactive in planning their discrimination claim defense strategy. In the event the complaining employee is also one whose work performance is substandard, a business may want to consult with its business and commercial law attorney about the appropriate action to take. In addition, an attorney may help keep good policies in place regarding discrimination.