The Perfect Storm… Discrimination, Retaliation, Lawsuit, Settlement
A discrimination law suit is much like a perfect storm… it can come from all four directions, and wreck an entire organization
Let me tell you a story.
Imagine an older staff member has been passed over for a position. While the organization might have its genuine rationale for choosing the younger candidate, our colleague over 40 is still dismayed. Perhaps the younger candidate has more direct experience, or more education. Nonetheless, your older staff member takes issue with being passed over. He then files an internal complaint that specifically invokes Title VII legislation by stating he feels he was passed over because of his age.
The organization is now at a cross roads. Whether the complaint is valid or not, our over forty colleague has invoked Title VII protections. Here is the forecast of the perfect storm. The organization can get mad, and immediately take a defensive posture, claiming there is no way that age discrimination exists, simply because there are policies against it. Nonetheless, the organization conducts an investigation and interviews a number of people. Once the investigation is complete, the complainant is transferred to another department because his manager doesn’t want to deal with a complainer.
The perfect storm still brews as every single person who participated in that investigation is also protected by Title VII. The transferred colleague now has a clear retaliation charge; because he was transferred after he made a complaint. If he views the transfer as a downgrade or unfair change, this age discrimination case now morphs into a retaliation charge. Further, if the participants in the investigation face adverse employment actions, demotions, transfers, even uncustomary poor performance evaluations, they too will have retaliation charges. As an organization can see, ill feelings about being passed over have quickly mushroomed into retaliation complaints which can cost easily $75,000 a piece to defend.
While the original complaint of age discrimination might not have yielded a finding in favor of the complaint, if the complaint is mishandled, the subsequent retaliation charges can embroil an organization for years. Patricia Berkly LLC helps organizations anticipate these problems and guides managers through sticky situations which can land the organization in court. The recent book Unequal Opportunity, offers details about these types of cases, and suggests solutions for managers. Visit www.diversitytrainingconsultants.com for more details.