EEO Hero Or Tattle-Tail?

Oct 12, 2009

In our American culture, particularly at the movies, we have traditionally honored those who speak up for the rights of others – particularly when they risk something or otherwise place their own future in peril for doing so. Some hesitant but potential heroes at work may not be aware that their right to speak out is sometimes legally protected by what are called anti-retaliation protections.

Retaliation is the intentionally negative response by a supervisor in response to an employee’s complaint about something he (the employee) has reason to believe was illegal misconduct (such as racial discrimination).

The employee doesn’t necessarily have to be complaining about misconduct to which he is being subjected. For example: If a man complains to management about the sexist treatment being placed upon his female co-workers, and thereafter, the employer mistreats him because he is asserting those women’s rights, he has been illegally retaliated against.

The person reporting (tattling) about the misconduct does not have to be right in his assertions, just in good faith. For example: If you think the victim is being treated in an improper way for a sexist reason, report it. If it turns out you are wrong, (the mistreatment is for some legitimate reason) your reporting incorrectly is still protected activity.

Anti-retaliation protection is an important tool to assert at the EEO. It is essential to the enforcement of anti-discrimination laws. If it were otherwise, reporting the misconduct would result in little more than additional misconduct and cover up, thereby unraveling the legal protection from the discrimination.

As it does with most things in life, our perspective depends upon our relationship to the issue: Stand up for something I am not interested in? You’re a tattle-tail, probably only motivated by self interest. Report misconduct that I agree should be eradicated? You’re a hero. See you at the movies.

Brad Harris, Attorney

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