The EEOC just announced that it has sued a Georgia staffing and professional recruitment company for retaliating against an employee who had filed an unspecified EEOC discrimination charge. Noteworthy is that the complaint in this case is silent as to what the employee felt was the basis for the discrimination charge, for none is asserted by the EEOC in its complaint.
The employee was assigned to one particular client of the staffing company as a quality auditor, and was suspended for a week for missing one day of work. He filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC, and was never given any further job assignments or opportunities. The staffing company’s on-site supervisor was the person who suspended the employee and to whom the employee allegedly said that his suspension “was not fair” and that “he was going to the EEOC.”
Since filing an EEOC charge requires an employee to check a box indicating the type of discrimination alleged, i.e., race, gender, age, etc., presumably the employee in this case did indeed check a box, therefore the fact that the EEOC’s lawsuit does not set forth this basis of discrimination may be significant.
The EEOC stated that: “Eliminating policies and practices that discourage or prohibit individuals from exercising their rights under employment discrimination statutes, or that impede the EEOC’s investigative or enforcement efforts, is one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (emphasis added).”
We have always cautioned employers that retaliation for filing a charge of discrimination is far easier to prove than the underlying alleged discrimination, and can be demonstrated even if the underlying basis for the discrimination charge fails. Given that retaliation is an EEOC priority, perhaps this is a test case by the EEOC to see how low the bar is when no underlying basis for discrimination is set forth or when an incredibly weak case of discrimination is alleged.