When workplace retaliation is unintentional

On Behalf of | Dec 6, 2018 | Firm News, retaliation |

Whether it is a loss of a promotion or a benefit, a harassing remark, or a transfer to a less desirable office, workers can feel angry and humiliated when subject to retaliatory behavior by a California boss. But could your boss commit retaliation for lodging a complaint against a worker without knowing it? It is possible that a superior may act punitively toward a worker unintentionally, but that does not mean that legal consequences could not result.

Some retaliatory behavior is so obvious that it is hard to imagine the person committing it does not know what he or she is doing. However, FindLaw explains that a large number of employers do actually retaliate against a worker without knowing it. In many cases, these unintentional acts may be a good faith attempt to handle a problematic situation, but could end up trampling on the rights of an employee.

A person in a supervisory position may, for instance, move an employee who accuses another of sexist comments away from the alleged offender to another office for the time being. However, the supervisor could end up placing the employee in an inferior office space. The reassignment might also deprive the employee of benefits the employee was enjoying prior to the alleged offense.

The problem in this scenario is that the person making the complaint lost out. The supervisor should have instead reassigned the person alleged to have committed the offense. Whenever a worker is alleged to have committed illegal acts, the person filing the complaint should not experience loss because of it.

An employer is not off the hook even if a claim against an employee turns out to be without merit. In fact, a worker could outright lie in a complaint and a superior could still invite legal trouble by retaliating against the worker. If a workplace is shown taking action against its workers for lodging complaints, it may still be held responsible for retaliation. The right to bring complaints against illegal acts is a crucial one. If an employee manipulates this right for malicious purposes, it must be dealt with in other ways.

Additionally, the Society for Human Resource Management website warns that incentive programs could motivate retaliatory action without intending it. A workplace that gauges a supervisor by the sales figures of the subordinate workers of the supervisor might motivate the supervisor to work the subordinates hard, perhaps even denying them time off to meet a specific sales threshold. However, such actions may run afoul of laws that require certain leave time.