Confronting Employer Retaliation
I haven’t been in the workforce long enough to experience any severe discrimination but if and when that happens, one part of my response will be influenced by an upcoming Supreme Court decision based on protecting employees from employer retaliation after that employee files a discrimination complaint.
The case is being brought by Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railway Co. and they are asking the Supreme Court “to overturn a decision by the Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals that found that suspending a female forklift operator for 37 days without pay and transferring her to a more physically demanding job were “materially adverse” changes in her employment.”
The defendant, Sheila White, did not have her pay disrupted until she filed a sexual discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Burlington Northern eventually changed its mind and compensated Sheila for back pay.
According to the article, “from 1992 to 2004, employees filed nearly twice as many complaints with the government alleging retaliation by employers, making it the fastest-growing category of complaints in job discrimination-related cases.”
That’s interesting because I wonder how many of those complaints are filed by women and minorities? However, this case is an interesting chapter in the on-going tug-of-war between employers and employees. Now let’s assume you are susceptible to discrimination because of something silly as the color of your skin. And let’s further suppose you have three kids and a mortgage, how far would you push for civil and equal treatment knowing that your work-life could very easily become non-existent or extremely uncomfortable?
Your answer to this question no doubt will be affected by this decision because if you know that your employer can get away with discrimination and then force you out of your job if you file a complaint, then I would think that you would not push as hard. However, if you knew that you could sue your employer twice for retaliating against your original discrimination complaint, I imagine you would be a little bolder in speaking out. Ideally, everyone would speak truth to power whenever they see it, but I am aware that this thinking tends to fade over time. So maybe if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Sheila, then those who are really beholden to their jobs might muster enough courage to speak up for what’s right. And for as difficult as it is to actually prove discrimination, I hope the Supreme Court will not give employers the power to muffle the cries for justice.
Stay up fam,