NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Employers Losing Retaliation Suits

February 10, 1999

Workers who claim that their bosses retaliated against them for speaking out against discrimination or harassment on the job are suddenly filing and winning a lot of cases. Retribution usually takes the form of demoting, firing or denying pay raises. Legal experts have noted an explosion in such cases recently, even though the charges are often difficult to prove.

  • Retaliation cases filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have more than doubled since 1991 -- from 14,708 then to 31,059 last year.
  • Retaliation charges made up 21.4 percent of EEOC cases last year -- compared to only 12.4 percent in 1991.
  • The surge is coming even though the overall number of charges filed with the EEOC has declined since 1997.
  • An analysis sponsored by USA Today shows that those who file retaliation lawsuits win a higher percentage of cases than those who claim age, disability, race or sex discrimination.

Employers often fear they can't demote a bad performer if that worker has ever complained about harassment or discrimination. One employment lawyer calls the retaliation threat "job protection for life.

The rising number of cases and the threat of legal costs are prompting consultants to urge employers to do more to protect themselves.

Source: Stephanie Armour and Barbara Hansen, "Flood of 'Retaliation' Case Surfacing in U.S. Workplace," USA Today, February 10, 1999.


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