Non Retaliation Policies for Your Business: Do’s and Don’ts

Non-retaliation policies are put in place to make employees aware of specific behavior that is unacceptable when one of their colleagues or employees submits a complaint in good faith. It is essential that your organization pays close attention to guidelines when it comes to constructing their non-retaliation policies.

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An overview of non-retaliation policies

A non-retaliation policy is a policy that is developed to ensure that an organization and its employees are complying with state and federal laws regarding the prohibition of retaliation. This policy protects employees who make good faith complaints against an employer, manager or co-worker regarding inappropriate or unlawful behavior. The idea behind this policy is that current employees or former employees should feel free to express their concerns with the company without apprehension due to the fear of retaliation. 


Under this policy, no adverse action is to be taken against an employee who reports, complains about or participates in the investigation of a possible violation of a company’s code of conduct, applicable law or company policy unless the complaint or report is deliberately false.

Retaliation in the workplace may be characterized by:


  • Termination or retraction of benefits
  • Demotion
  • Lowering compensation
  • Victimization
  • Unsatisfactory marks on a work performance evaluation
  • Exclusion from company events or meetings
  • Defamation of character

 Related: Cultivating Positive Workplace Behavior


Best practices for non-retaliation policies

Here are some practices that you can apply to non-retaliation policies:


What to add to non-retaliation policies:


  • Communicate zero tolerance for any adverse action. It is important to let your employees know that retaliation to a complaint is in no way acceptable, and serious disciplinary action will follow.
  • Make it known that discussing a discrimination allegation is inappropriate. Discussing allegations and individuals involved in a report can cause unintentional retaliation and should be avoided during the investigation.  
  • Convey the importance of continuing to provide the same tools and support to employees who have submitted complaints. If tools or information that are necessary for an employee to do their job are withheld from them, it may be considered retaliatory because their performance may decline and consequences may follow. You can avoid this by ensuring employees they will maintain the same privileges and access to support after filing a complaint.


What not to add to non-retaliation policies:


  • To isolate or exclude protected employees who have reported policy violations or laws. Protected employees should have the same daily work experience that they have always had. If they normally attend weekly meetings, then they should continue being invited to attend weekly meetings. 
  • That anger or revenge is reasonable if someone submits a complaint against you. Each supervisor and colleague of the protected employee should stay professional and remain neutral about any person who submits a complaint against them. 


Tips for constructing a non-retaliation policy

Constructing an efficient non-retaliation policy may help your business avoid retaliatory behavior. Below are some tips that can help you construct an effective non-retaliation policy: 

  • Write the policy in a clear and concise manner
  • Include the non-retaliation policy in your employee handbook
  • Let employees know how they can report potential retaliation
  • Consult with a lawyer
  • Provide mandatory training based on the policy
  • Keep proper documentation about retaliatory behavior


Write the policy in a clear and concise manner

The best way to make sure employees understand the seriousness of the policy is to write the policy in a clear and concise way. Avoid using overcomplicated or legal terminology, and opt instead of simple and easily understandable language. Your policy may have several elements to it, and it is important to organize it in a coherent way to increase readability. Consider bolding words or phrases to emphasize their importance.


Include the non-retaliation policy in your employee handbook

The non-retaliation policy should be added to your employee handbook so employees can review the information when needed. You may also choose to add a form that the employees must sign, which states that the employee understands the policy and agrees to adhere to it and is aware of the consequences if they do not. 


Let employees know how they can report potential retaliation

The non-retaliation policy should also be a resource for employees who need to reach out to someone regarding retaliation. Provide websites for more information and phone numbers that connect them to HR or another party that can help answer questions about retaliatory behavior.


Consult with a lawyer

It is essential to ensure that your policies are lawful and just. To make sure the non-retaliation policy is compliant before it is released, you may consider passing the information along to your lawyer for review. They can assist you with proper wording and remove anything that may be contrary to the law. 


Provide mandatory training based on the policy

Once your policy is completed, you may develop a training session or class to educate your employees on what retaliation means and why they should avoid such adverse action. This may help to protect your company from future litigation since all employees are aware of the policy when they are required to be trained on the subject. 


Keep proper documentation regarding retaliatory behavior

If retaliation occurs or seems to occur, it is important to document the behavior and take proper disciplinary action. In most cases you need proof, and you may need to provide proof of one or more retaliatory behaviors depending on their severity. 


Related: How to Create a Paid Time Off Policy  


Non-retaliation policy FAQs

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions regarding non-retaliation policies:


What behaviors are protected from retaliation?

There are several behaviors protected from retaliation. These behaviors are:

  • Disobeying a direct order that is believed to violate a law or company policy
  • Reporting alleged discrimination regarding yourself or others
  • Participating in an internal investigation of alleged misconduct by providing information
  • Refusing unwanted sexual advances or protecting others from unwanted sexual advances
  • Requesting reasonable accommodation due to religion or disability


Can I allow my employees to report misconduct anonymously?

Yes, you may develop an anonymous system for employees to report misconduct. However, it can sometimes be easy to tell who reported the issues, and you are still required to protect that employee from retaliation. 


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