by Rashmee Sinha, Esquire (email / link to bio)
The standard protocol among most employers when investigating a complaint of discrimination or harassment in the workplace is to instruct employees not to discuss the matter for obvious reasons, i.e. limit exposure to liability, and prevent attempts to taint the investigation process by putting a lid on the gossip mill so that employees are not led to modify or recant their statements. However, based on a recent letter from the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, policies that warn employees that they could be subject to discipline or discharge for discussing an ongoing internal investigation may be unlawful. The EEOC claimed that the policy is illegal under Title VII, which prohibits workplace harassment and discrimination on the basis of, inter alia race, sex, and religious belief.