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When I File a Discrimination Complaint with My Employer, Will it Be Kept Confidential?


Filing an employment discrimination complaint can be a stressful situation. Most employees who find themselves in this position are afraid that following through with an informal complaint may result in them losing their jobs. However, with a better understanding of what to expect, the process may not be so daunting. It is also a good idea to seek the advice of a Birmingham employment discrimination attorney while you go through the process.

Discrimination complaints should remain confidential during the informal process

One reasonable expectation that employees typically have is that when they lodge an informal discrimination complaint with their employer, that complaint will be kept as confidential as possible. The primary reason that employees want confidentiality is to protect them from mistreatment by co-workers or retaliation by supervisors. The most common example is when the employee who is being accused of discriminatory conduct finds out that a complaint has been lodged, the result could easily be additional or more severe discrimination or retaliation.

What is the incentive for keeping things quiet?

While the primary reason for keeping an internal discrimination complaint private is to protect the privacy of the complaining employee, there are also reasons an employer would want the same thing. Mainly, employers are not eager for other employees to know about allegations of discrimination or harassment in the workplace.

It follows that if the complaint remains under the radar, other employees will not be encouraged to bring similar complaints themselves. In fact, some employers go so far as to forbid complaining employees from discussing the complaint with any other employees. However, the EEOC takes issue with such restrictions as they likely violate Title VII as an interference with employee rights.

Complete confidentiality is not always possible

However, it is usually not possible to keep the matter entirely confidential because of the need to conduct an investigation into the complaint. The employer will make an effort to corroborate your version of the events that led to your complaint. That does not mean, though, that the entire workforce needs to be informed of the details.

What happens if I am subjected to retaliation after making my complaint?

First, there are federal laws that protect employees from workplace discrimination as well as retaliation for lodging complaints of discrimination. One of the goals of this type of protection is to encourage employees to come forward with complaints of misconduct. For that reason, it is illegal for your employer to punish you for complaining about discrimination. It is also illegal to retaliate against an employee for participating in an investigation into discrimination complaints brought by another employee.

It is not always easy to tell if you are being retaliated against. Demotion, discipline, and termination are very obvious signs when they occur soon after you make a complaint or assist in an investigation. If you suspect your employer’s actions may be retaliatory, or if you believe your employer has not responded to your discrimination complaints appropriately, contact the attorneys at Michel | King , either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880.

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