The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a complaint against Fox News last week, in the District of Columbia’s federal court. The complaint accuses Fox of retaliating against a correspondent who had complained of sex and age discrimination policies at Fox. When it was time to renew her contract, Fox News presented a contract that mentioned her discrimination complaints, and was meant to stop her from pressing such complaints in the future. The reporter declined to sign the contract with that language. Fox refused to negotiate, until the following year, after the EEOC investigated.
A lawsuit claiming retaliation for making complaints can pack a powerful punch. Judges often have a better reaction to retaliation claims than to the discrimination charges that prompted them. Perhaps this is because they represent an attack on the citizen’s right to invoke the protections of a law, or to participate in someone else’s lawsuit.
Retaliation can take many forms, including firing, demoting, isolating, and attempting to make the workplace so harrowing that the employee quits. Sometimes an employer retaliates after the employee has left the employer. Employers need to be careful about reacting in a resentful manner about a claim of discrimination, even if it sincerely believes that the charge was baseless. Giving a bad reference, fighting against unemployment benefits and refusing to consider a person for may all qualify as retaliatory acts, prolonging the problem.