Workplace retaliation occurs when an employer, or some form of upper management, punishes an employee from engaging in a protected act. Protected activities are actions that are legally safeguarded under federal law, such as whistleblowing, joining a labor union, refusing to engage in illegal activity, or filing a harassment complaint. Retaliation against these acts can result in serious litigation, ruin the work environment, destroy productivity, and cause employees to leave. Fortunately, there are practices that employers can utilize to prevent retaliation from occurring in the workplace altogether.
Put Your Policies in Writing
All companies should have anti-retaliation policies that are clear and accessible to everyone within the workplace. These policies should be clear on what retaliation is in explicitly legal terms, ensuring everyone is aware of what the consequences for retaliation are. To ensure your employees abide by the policies, put them in a document they must sign and acknowledge.
Make Reporting Easy
All employees should be explicitly aware of the complaint procedures and policies so they know how to make a report and file a complaint if an incident occurs. Making it difficult to file a complaint or having unclear complaint procedures can land a business in hot water if litigation does occur. For this reason, many employers choose to have a private and anonymous hotline so employees can easily and safely file a complaint.
Keep Information Confidential
When a report does occur, keep any and all information as private as possible. One of the most common examples of employer retaliation occurs when the details of a complaint come forth, and the person who filed the complaint is isolated or excluded. It may be useful to employ strict confidentiality policies within the HR department to protect sensitive information, as even small gossip can ruin an employee’s standing in the company.
Provide Training for All Workers
All workers on every level should be trained on what workplace retaliation is, how to identify it, and how to appropriately respond to a difficult situation. While employer and employee training should look different, the point is to keep everyone on the same page and create a safe, zero-tolerance environment. Most importantly, all staff should be educated on these policies and procedures. The best way to prevent retaliation from occurring in the workplace is to prioritize education and give employees the tools they need to protect themselves.