Most employers have policies against discrimination and harassment based on protected categories, such as race, sex, religion and national origin. To be effective, and to provide effective defenses against lawsuits, the policies often requiresupervisory personnel to report anything observed or reported to them that looks or smells like discrimination or harassment, regardless of whether an employee actively complains. The policies also require supervisors to pass along actual complaints. When they work well, these policies can minimize discriminatory cultures, and stop harassment before it ruins someone’s career. When reports of discrimination enrage the perpetrator or other managers, however, the fallout can be widespread and expensive.
In a recent Montgomery County case, for example, the employer retaliated against an employee for reporting sex discrimination. The harassment victim’s supervisor alerted the higher-ups of the retaliation. Soon thereafter the 30-year employee (the one reported her subordinate’s complaint and her observation of the retaliation) experienced retaliation herself. Her supervisor and upper management demoted her, and transferred her, increasing her daily commute from 4 to 84 miles. The jury responded to her allegations that she was fired for opposing a discriminatory practice, and awarded $650,000.