Human Resources, Leadership

Avoid Retaliation Firing at All Costs

Yesterday we looked at why it’s ill-advised for managers retaliate in any way against their employees, especially when it comes to firing. Today we’ll take a look at how connections between an adverse action and firing can be established, plus some important bottom lines on the topic of retaliation firing.

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Finally, there must be a connection between the protected behavior and the adverse action. Sometimes, the connection is shown by “smoking gun” evidence, such as an e-mail saying, “Get rid of her. We don’t need complainers around here.”

In other cases, there is an inference from the time between the protected act and the adverse act. For example, an employee filed a charge of sex discrimination yesterday, and you fired her today. That’s a likely connection.

Training Point #4—You Don’t Want to Be Here

Bottom line for retaliation cases: And you don’t want to be dealing with one. It’s expensive, it’s annoying, it’s unpredictable, and it’s unnecessary. They are virtually all avoidable.

Training Point #5—What You Can Do to Prevent Retaliation Suits

Establish a Clear Policy

Publish a policy that prohibits retaliation against employees who make complaints or engage in protected conduct.

Create a Multi-Channel Complaint System

Establish several means for employees to register complaints. Yes, you do want to encourage employees to complain. You want a chance to fix things before lawyers and government agencies are involved.

Clarify Accountability

Make it clear to managers and supervisors that preventing retaliation is part of their jobs.


Establish your intelligence network. As the HR manager, you need to be the first to know, not the last.

Train, Train, Train

Training is probably the most important anti-retaliation action you can take.

Train all employees on your complaint systems.

Train managers and supervisors to restrain themselves. All your managers and supervisors should realize:

  • How expensive and time-consuming retaliation suits can be.
  • How dumb it is to take an employee’s losing case and turn it into a winning case by retaliating against the employee.
  • What types of action can be considered retaliation.
  • The danger of time proximity, that is, that a reasonable act can appear to be retaliation when it comes shortly after an employee has taken a protected action.

Insist on HR Review

Finally, before you allow adverse actions against whistleblowers or employees who have made complaints or taken any potentially protected action, consider the consequences carefully. Make sure there is an HR review before any action is taken.