Business owners have more than enough to worry about, with internal and external pressures such as finances, growth strategies and competition. Amidst all this is the need to consider the workplace and your employees. That includes establishing a culture that addresses discriminatory acts.

Some federal statistics can help guide your thinking in this regard. If you know what might be most likely to happen, you can take steps to quickly address it, or prevent it from happening in the first place. With that in mind, here are the most common types of allegations in workplace discrimination claims.

Retaliation tops the list

This data comes from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which in 2018 resolved 90,558 charges of discrimination. That year, the most common type of discrimination filed with the EEOC was retaliation.

Employees alleged retaliatory actions by their employer a total of 39,469 times, by far the highest figure for any type of discrimination complaint. Following retaliation were discrimination claims on the basis of:

  • Sex – 24,655
  • Disability – 24,605
  • Race – 24,600
  • Age – 16,911
  • National origin – 7,106
  • Color – 3,166
  • Religion – 2,859
  • Equal Pay Act – 1,066
  • Genetic information – 220

Retaliation has been the most common discrimination finding by the EEOC in federal sector cases for more than a decade straight.

Understanding retaliation

Retaliation can include any type of negative action or behavior directed toward an employee because they filed, or are involved in, a discrimination complaint. Doing so is illegal.

Some retaliatory actions are quite obvious – firing, demoting, harassing or threatening someone who alleged discrimination, for example. Retaliation can also be more subtle. Changing the shift of a worker that complained about discrimination to cover worse hours, without explanation, may be considered retaliatory. So can offering them a harsh performance review without merit, or halting their use of company perks such as a car.

The EEOC says organizational culture can encourage retaliatory acts. That includes a company:

  • Not having clear policies to discourage retaliation
  • Relying on an “authoritarian” management culture
  • Over-emphasizing rank and job titles
  • Having a lot of task-related conflicts
  • Relying on a rewards system that values competition above all
  • Allowing for someone accused of discrimination to isolate their accuser

Any time an employee makes a discrimination complaint, it is often smart to document that you received it, address the issue promptly, then document the actions your company took, as well as any follow-ups.

Retaliation claims are quite serious, and not uncommon. If you are faced with one, it is important to craft a strong defense. Preventing retaliation from happening in the first place can help you avoid the situation altogether.

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