Workplace Retaliation: A Review of Emerging Case Law

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In recent years, retaliation claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have emerged as the most prevalent discriminatory charge leveled by employees. After several Supreme Court rulings that expanded coverage for employees in retaliation cases (e.g., Kasten v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, 2011; Thompson v. North American Stainless, 2011), the Court recently reversed course and issued a decision making it more difficult for employees to succeed in retaliation claims (University of Texas Southwest Medical Center v. Nassar, 2013). So, has the legal tide turned against employees with regard to the issue of workplace retaliation? These cases (and others) have highlighted this emerging legal issue and the potential impact of retaliatory claims for both the employees and management. Due to the saliency of this important workplace issue, this article summarizes key legal decisions with regard to workplace retaliation and the implications for both workers and organizations. In addition, the authors suggest specific recommendations for organizations regarding (a) preventative actions, (b) managerial interventions, and (c) pitfalls to avoid in order to minimize the likelihood of retaliatory behaviors and legal claims.

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