Comments Constitute Reprisal

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

In King v. International Boundary & Water Comm'n, EEOC Appeal No. 0120112384 (March 19, 2013), the EEOC held that a supervisor's comments informing employees that the complainant had filed an EEO complaint constituted a per se violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

King, a laborer, notified the area operations manager that his supervisor had been telling other employees about his EEO activity. When the area operations manager asked employees at a meeting whether they had heard about his EEO activity, six employees raised their hands. One employee also indicated that the supervisor told him that King had filed an EEO complaint and that he should be careful about what he said. The EEOC stated that such comments by a supervisor about a complainant's EEO activity were likely to have a chilling effect on other employees and deter them from fully exercising their EEO rights. The Commission stated that interfering with an employee's exercise of his EEO rights is a per se violation of Title VII and that such comments have the effect of intimidating employees.

The Commission noted that while such comments may not have deterred the complainant from filing an EEO complaint, they may very well have deterred other employees from exercising their EEO rights. Citing the EEOC regulations, the Commission emphasized that an agency has a continuing duty to promote the full realization of equal employment opportunity in its policies and practices in every aspect of agency personnel matters. Agencies must, among other things, ensure that its supervisors promote and enforce a vigorous equal employment opportunity program.