• Whistleblowers, Retaliation and Traditional Employee Investigations: Reacting to the Problem Employee Without Creating Additional Risk
  • July 10, 2003 | Authors: Edward A. Marshall; Henry M. Perlowski
  • Law Firm: Arnall Golden Gregory LLP - Atlanta Office
  • Over the last decade, employers have faced a dramatic increase in the number of retaliation claims brought by current and former employees. According to the most recent statistics released by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the "EEOC"), claims of employer retaliation under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (hereinafter "Title VII"), exceeded 20,000 in 2002 -- nearly double the number of claims received only ten years earlier. This escalation in retaliation claims is significant, especially considering that charges alleging race, sex, disability and age discrimination have remained relatively constant over the same period of time. This exponential increase in the number of retaliation claims presents a serious risk for American employers, as liability for unlawful reprisal often is substantial. Indeed, in 2003 alone, (1) The Ninth Circuit affirmed a $2.3 million jury verdict in California, which included over $1 million in punitive damages, against a pharmaceutical company; (2) A female supervisor at an international package delivery company secured a jury verdict in excess of $2 million; and (3) A bank teller in Nebraska, a normally conservative jurisdiction, secured a $1.55 million jury award. The purpose of this article is to introduce the fundamentals underlying retaliation protection under Title VII, the statute that serves as the basis for 90% of all retaliation claims filed under federal employment laws, and provide practical guidance as to how these retaliation claims may be avoided.