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EEOC retaliation filings on the increase

Texas employees may be interested to learn that by 2015, retaliation claims filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had grown to 45 percent of all EEOC claims compared to 24 percent in 1998. Retaliation claims are now more common than claims dealing with sex or race and have become the largest category of EEOC charges.

Retaliation refers to an action an employer takes against an employee for engaging in an action that is protected by law. The EEOC has broadly defined retaliation, and in some cases, courts define retaliation more narrowly. According to the EEOC, an adverse action against an employee is not limited to actions within the workplace and may include an action such as using the media to say negative things about the employee.

The EEOC also tends to side with employees on so-called frivolous filings. The EEOC maintains that an employee is protected even if filing a complaint or taking another action that is not "in good faith." For example, an employee might be deliberately lying, but under EEOC guidelines, the employee would still be protected. This is also a point on which courts have ruled differently. To assist employers, the EEOC has issued several publications covering its new guidelines on retaliation.

One common issue that arises around retaliation is that workers' rights are often not fully understood by either the employee or the employer. People who have filed a complaint regarding discrimination or sought to have their rights upheld in some other way, such as by asking for overtime pay, might want to consult an attorney. This may be a good option even if they are seeking to resolve the issue in the workplace rather than through the court system.

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