Retaliation Claims: The Interesting Statistics

Janice Harper, an anthropologist, recently published an article that highlights several interesting statistics uncovered by the Ethics Resource Center about Whistleblower claims.

One stat of interest is the fact that 39% of whistleblowers’ initial complaints were not investigated by the employer.  That stat, when taken together with retaliatory conduct towards the whistleblower, suggests that perhaps a reason for the employer’s lack of concern and action was precisely due to the fact that it already knew the complaint was legitimate and true, but an undesirable truth.  Hence, the effort to avoid the reality and to sweep it under the rug.

The proliferation of employment laws over the past twenty years have begun to automatically come with anti-retaliation provisions in them.  Indeed, in the civil rights context, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s statistics demonstrate significant increases in the filing of retaliation charges by employees.  This trend is evident in other contexts, as well.

The rise of retaliation claims has resulted in some employers taking employee complaints more seriously and taking the additional time to review them, even those they believe are entirely contrived.  The reason?   There are many, but some of the more common reasons include the attempt by employers to identify problems early and fix them before matters escalate to litigation and the attempt to create a demonstrable pattern of taking issues seriously (rather than appearing to be the broom-wielding employer that sweeps concerns under the rug).

Due to this trend, employers have begun cross training their in-house counsel, risk managers, and HR professionals to conduct proper investigations of employee concerns and complaints.  Additionally, external workplace investigators have also become more common, the recent creation of the Association of Workplace Investigators is an indicator of this growing industry.

In Georgia, employers typically turn to attorneys as external investigators into workplace complaints.  These attorneys, some of whom have joined One Mediation, are well qualified in being able to quickly respond to an employee’s concerns in an impartial and well-documented and reasoned fashion.   The use of independent workplace investigators with employee concerns and complaints has gained increasing acceptance as a justifiable business expense for a variety of reasons that go well beyond litigation concerns and extend to increased morale, retention of skilled employees, and economic growth potential.

 

 

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