DOL, NRLB and EEOC Announce Joint Initiative Against Workplace Retaliation

On Nov. 10, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced a joint initiative to protect workers against retaliation. The initiative began Nov. 17, 2021. These agencies view worker retaliation as a “persistent and urgent problem” in the workplace and indicate that retaliation cases have increased each year over the last 20 years.

Virtual Employer Dialogue

The three agencies will cooperate to enforce federal laws that protect workers who raise their concerns or speak out about their pay, workplace health and safety issues, discrimination or other working conditions. The agencies’ concerted efforts will focus on:

  • Educating the public about worker rights and unlawful retaliation;
  • Initiating a virtual dialogue with employers, trade and business associations, labor organizations and civil rights groups about the importance of employee anti-retaliation protections; and
  • Forcefully protecting workers from retaliatory acts.

Impact on Employers

While this announcement does not create any new employer obligations, it provides an opportunity for employers to review their anti-retaliation workplace policies and procedures. In addition, employers should monitor future communications from these agencies to learn more about the agencies’ focus and priorities for this joint initiative.

Workplace Retaliation

Workplace retaliation occurs when an employer takes a materially adverse action against an applicant or employee for asserting rights protected by law. Retaliation may include actions such as:

  • Work-related threats, warnings or reprimands;
  • Negative or lowered evaluations;
  • Transfers to less prestigious or less desirable work or work locations; or
  • Unjustified excessive scrutiny of work or attendance.

According to the federal agencies, retaliation claims have risen each year for the last 20 years.