Layoffs may be contributing to a surge in retaliation claims filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, reports The Wall Street Journal.
Claims including a retaliation charge rose 23% in the year ended Sept. 30, 2008, to 32,690 -- more than a third of all claims filed with the agency. Claims that didn't involve retaliation rose 12% in the same period.
Carolyn Wheeler, an EEOC assistant general counsel, says stamping out retaliation is the commission's top priority. Enforcement of antidiscrimination laws "depends totally on people coming to file complaints," she says. "If people don't feel free to do that, these laws don't get enforced."
Lawyers representing employers say a sizable portion of retaliation claims filed have come from laid-off employees. Another reason the Journal finds for the dramatic increase in retaliation claims is that they are easier to prove than discrimination claims.
Retaliation claims have nearly tripled since the early 1990s, reports the Journal. Although the official statistics for 2009 are not available yet, the Journal says employment lawyers maintain the trend is only increasing as the recession continues and more workers get laid off.
While it's easier for a company to defend laying off workers for business reasons, the Journal notes, it does not mean they will be fully protected against retaliation suits.
♦ Photo of packed up belongings from work station courtesy of Daniel Greene/Flickr