If you are one of the lucky ones – the employee whose EEOC mediation was a success – them you may have some questions about what happens next. For employees who remain at work after mediation, the main concern is whether or not their employer will retaliate against them. There are protections in place for employees, including protection against retaliation. Here is what you need to know.
We have an agreement, what's next?
You reached an agreement on the terms of the settlement or resolution, so the next step is signing the settlement agreement. Your attorney and the attorney representing your employer will negotiate all of the legal terms of this agreement. In many cases, the employer has a general release agreement that they typically use in these situations, but your employment attorney will review the agreement and make sure everything is in order.
If by chance, you participated in EEOC mediation without an attorney, you may want to consider having one review the settlement agreement before you sign. The settlement and release agreement are often quite long and its terms are serious, as they require you to give up certain legal rights.
Will they retaliate if I go back to work?
This question is very important to employees involved in a workplace dispute. In fact, this question may be the one obstacle to settlement. Any employee who has made formal complaints against an employer will be afraid of retaliation, especially if the settlement includes allowing the employee to retain his or her position.
The answer is simple – retaliation is illegal. Essentially, your employer cannot punish you for complaining about discrimination or harassment. This also includes your participation in an investigation into complaints of discrimination or harassment. However, this does not provide a guarantee that your employer will never take some action against you. Whether or not that action is motivated by retaliation is another issue. The good news is, even if you signed a release as part of your settlement, you still have the right to file a new claim for retaliation if it occurs after mediation or anytime in the future.
What is unlawful retaliation?
The legal definition of retaliation is taking an "adverse employment action" against an employee for "engaging in legally protected activity." Basically, "adverse employment action" means an adverse or negative job action, such as demotion, discipline, termination, reduction in salary, or changes in job assignments or shift schedules. In some cases, retaliation can be more subtle, such as being blamed for co-workers poor performance, or receiving unjustified negative performance evaluations.
What if I think I am being retaliated against?
It is not always easy to determine whether your employer's actions are actually retaliation. It is common for employees to view small changes in a supervisor's demeanor as a sign of retaliation. This is especially true for an employee returning to work after resolving an EEOC charge. Remember that, only actions that have an adverse effect on your employment are considered retaliatory. If you are concerned that your employer's actions may be retaliation, you should speak to experienced employment law attorneys as soon as possible, in order to preserve your claim.
If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation, or if you have any questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced employment attorneys at Wrady & Michel, LLC, either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880.