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How can employers protect against retaliation claims?

Certain statutes and regulations have been passed to ensure employees feel safe. This goes beyond safe from injuries and fatal accidents. Because employees should feel comfortable to speak up, whistleblower rights were developed.

This means that employees should feel comfortable to file a claim or report something going on in the workplace without the fear of being retaliated against. This includes actions such as firing, laying off, blacklisting, demoting, denying overtime or a promotion, disciplining, denial of benefits, failure to hire or rehire, intimidation, harassment, making threats, reassignment that affects the prospects of a promotion or reducing pay or hours. But what if an employer was carrying out actions that were already set in place or there are valid reasons for these acts? An employer should not fear having actions taken against them.

Because of this employers may have to consider defense actions. This means taking steps to collect documentation, gather information and even conduct an investigation to further explore the matter. There are actions and steps that employers can take. This is known as an anti-retaliation program. There are five elements in this program.

The first element is management leadership, commitment and accountability. This is followed by developing a system for listening to and resolving employee's safety and compliance concerns. The third element is to design a system for receiving and responding to reports of retaliation. Next, employers should provide anti-retaliation training for employees and managers. Finally, employers should initiate a program for oversight.

By implementing these elements in the work environment, employers are better prepared to reduce the chances for retaliation actions or have a plan in place to address one if they occur. Whistleblowing is possible in any work environment; therefore it is important to understand how to address this problem or retaliation claims that could arise in the matter.

Source: Whistleblowers.gov, "Recommended Practices for Anti-Retaliation Programs," accessed April 15, 2018

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