Explain the concept of employer retaliation as it applies to equal employment laws.


Alison Quimby, HR Director of a small manufacturing company, was surprised when Ramona Ruiz, a Quality Control Inspector, said that her supervisor has been whispering comments in her ear about how good she looks in her uniform and wonders what she wears underneath it. “I’ve told him to knock it off a million times, but it’s getting worse and I just dread going to work. Can you do something to help?” Quimby felt awful for Ruiz and wanted to protect her from further harassment while she investigated the complaint, so she asked her to work in the warehouse until further notice so she could investigate the situation and speak to her supervisor.  An hour later, Quimby was called to the warehouse by the warehouse supervisor Bert Blackwater. Blackwater believed that Anton Mueller, a warehouse employee, had intentionally broken an expensive piece of equipment after learning he wouldn’t receive any overtime because Ramona Ruiz is now working in the warehouse. Mueller had a long history of discipline issues and gripes. He had previously filed a complaint for age discrimination after his last performance appraisal meeting when Quimby warned him that he was in danger of losing his job for numerous performance deficiencies. During a disciplinary meeting in Quimby’s office, Mueller started swearing at Quimby loudly, calling her names, and insulting her intelligence in extremely derogatory and sexist terms. Quimby explained that due to his prior disciplinary actions and poor performance appraisals, she was terminating his employment. Mueller stormed out of her office, shouting “Did you forget about my discrimination complaint? I’m going to prove you’re out to get me. This isn’t over and you’re going to pay big time for your mistake!”  The next day Quimby completed her investigation of Ramona Ruiz’s complaint. After interviewing Ruiz, the supervisor, and others in their department, Quimby determined that the supervisor had made several inappropriate comments to Ruiz, but her estimate that she told him to knock it off a “million times” turned out to be a total of twice in the last week. The supervisor was suspended and required to attend sexual harassment training upon his return. He apologized, agreed to those terms, and left quietly.  Quimby wasn’t surprised a few days later when she was informed that Anton Mueller had filed a retaliation complaint with the EEOC claiming his firing was in retaliation for the age discrimination complaint he filed. When she explained the situation to the company’s legal counsel, she also explained how she had handled the problem between Ramona Ruiz and her supervisor. The attorney seemed concerned and asked if Ruiz was still in the warehouse and where the supervisor was. Quimby explained that Ruiz was back in quality control after spending 2 days in the warehouse where she earned her regular pay rate. The supervisor had not returned to work yet. The attorney told Quimby that he would call her back in a couple of hours, closing with “we need to handle Ramona and her supervisor correctly or she could have a more authentic retaliation claim than Mueller.”

Explain the concept of employer retaliation as it applies to equal employment laws. Evaluate the grounds for Anton’s claim of retaliation. Does Ramona have grounds for a retaliation claim? (LO 1, 2, 6, 7)

Evaluate Alison’s handling of the supervisor accused of sexual harassment so far. How should Alison handle the supervisor’s return to work? (LO 1, 6) Develop a policy for Alison that will help to prevent further sexual harassment and explain how to implement it. (LO 1, 6)

Research: Are retaliation complaints in the United States decreasing or on the rise? Explain some reasons given for the change in number of complaints. What can employers do to prevent retaliation claims? (LO 1, 7)


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