The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated its COVID-19 technical assistance on Wednesday, November 17, to include more information about employer retaliation in pandemic-related employment situations.
The updates explain and clarify the rights of employees and job applicants who believe they suffered retaliation for protected activities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, or other employment discrimination laws. The technical assistance explains how these rights are balanced against employers’ needs to enforce COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
“Retaliation is the most frequently alleged form of discrimination in the EEOC’s charges overall and has been at the top for too many years,” said EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows. “The COVID-19 pandemic has created new situations and additional challenges, but it is no excuse to retaliate against people for opposing employment discrimination. This updated technical assistance provides additional clarity on how our laws balance workers’ rights to speak up without fear of retaliation against employers’ responsibilities to create a healthy and safe work environment.”
Key updates include:
- Job applicants and current and former employees are protected from retaliation by employers for asserting their rights under any of the EEOC-enforced anti-discrimination laws.
- Protected activity can take many forms, including filing a charge of discrimination; complaining to a supervisor about coworker harassment; or requesting accommodation of a disability or a religious belief, practice, or observance, regardless of whether the request is granted or denied.
- Additionally, the ADA prohibits not only retaliation for protected EEO activity, but also “interference” with an individual’s exercise of ADA rights.
This updated technical assistance also supports the EEOC’s participation in an interagency initiative, which will be launched today, to end retaliation against workers who exercise their protected labor and employment law rights. The other participants in the initiative are the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The initiative will include collaboration among these civil law enforcement agencies to protect workers on issues of unlawful retaliatory conduct, educate the public and engage with employers, business organizations, labor organizations and civil rights groups in the coming year.
The EEOC has updated its technical assistance on employment and COVID-19 approximately 20 times throughout the pandemic.