EEOC TO MANAGERS: “ZIP IT!”
Loose lips not only sink ships, but they also violate employee rights. EEOC issued two decisions recently where it could not have made it clearer that managers are not to talk about employee EEO complaints. In Cattero v. U.S. Postal Service (EEOC OFO 08/12/11) EEOC caught a manager talking to an employee’s co-workers about a discrimination complaint the employee had filed. EEOC said that when managers talk about employee complaints with those who have no need to know that is reasonably likely to deter employees from filing their own complaints—and that violates the law.
In Cruz v. U.S. Postal Service (EEOC OFO 07/21/11) the manager disclosed to one employee information she had obtained by reading another employee’s confidential medical information. More specifically, the supervisor revealed that the employee was being treated by a psychiatrist and was diagnosed with a nervous condition. From the facts, it could be argued that the supervisor was trying to warn the employee not to provoke the employee with the diagnosed condition because for a potential for violence. However, EEOC reminded the supervisor that only those employees with a tangible “need to know” may be given this information. That’s the rule whether the manager is sharing it with bargaining unit employees or even other management officials. Unless they have a verifiable need to know, they cannot be given the information.
In both cases EEOC remanded the cases for a determination of how much of a compensatory damage award should be paid to the employee.
“Zip it!” is a good rule for managers to follow whenever an employee files any kind complaint or grievance. EEO, Workers Compensation, ULP, contract grievance, etc. So, when one employee asks why he is being reassigned some additional cases, the incorrect answer would be to tell the employee that another employee filed a ULP that forced the manager to redistribute the work. The correct answer would be that management has made a decision that it needs to be redistributed.