UNLAWFUL DISCLOSURE OF EMPLOYEE EEO ACTIVITY TO OTHERS
EEOC just wrote that the statutory anti-retaliation provisions prohibit any adverse treatment that is based on a retaliatory motive and is reasonably likely to deter a reasonable employee from engaging in protected activity. Although petty slights and trivial annoyances are not actionable, adverse actions or threats to take adverse actions such as reprimands, negative evaluations, and harassment are actionable. It then lowered the boom on a Navy manager who told someone without a business-related need to know of an employee’s past EEO activity.
The manager should not have been surprised. EEOC has found reprisal where a supervisor broadcasted complainant’s EEO activity in the presence of coworkers and management. In this case, the record clearly showed that the Fire Control and Guidance Branch Deputy, when questioned about how she learned about Complainant’s prior EEO activity, responded with the following: “I was told by the Branch Head at the time, [Complainant’s supervisor], that [Complainant] has made EEO complaints in the past.” By the Agency’s own admission, the Fire Control and Guidance Branch Deputy did not supervise Complainant. As such, Complainant’s supervisor should not have disclosed Complainant’s prior EEO activity to the Fire Control and Guidance Branch Deputy.
EEOC then wrapped up its decision by finding that this disclosure, on its face, discourages participation in the EEO process and constitutes reprisal. In the end, it ordered the agency to pay the employee compensatory damages up to $300.000.00 and to consider disciplining the supervisor who revealed the information.
It is not uncommon for supervisors to talk to colleagues about employee complaints of any kind. But employees should know that there are multiple laws entitling them to remedies, including money, when it does happen as well as having the supervisor fined, suspended and barred from federal employment.
For more details, see Rosamaria F., v. Thomas B. Modly, Dept. of the Navy, EEOC No.. 0120181068 (2020)