On March 11, 2011, Tré Kitchens, an attorney with The Brad Hendricks Law Firm and the President of the Arkansas Trial Lawyers Association, appeared before an Arkansas House committee to oppose proposed legislation that would have shielded individuals from retaliation claims brought by those who had previously complained of discriminatory conduct.
The bill, Kitchens argued, “completely abrogates personal responsibility for the person who has done wrong.” Kitchens noted that retaliation claims are already difficult to successfully prosecute, in part because companies frequently claim that they should not be sued once they have taken what they deem to be appropriate action against those individuals who have been charged with the wrongful conduct. The bill that was introduced, if passed, would have codified this argument and prohibited many claims of discriminatory conduct.
He added, “The man who retaliates against a woman because she won’t have sex with him, I want to sue that person.”
In light of the fact that most employers do not admit to discriminatory conduct, but also do not have human resources officers, Rep. John Walker (D-Little Rock) added that claims against the individual supervisory employee should not be barred. Otherwise, the employer would be “untouchable.”
Finally, University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law professor Theresa M. Beiner opined the the threat of a potential lawsuit against the individual supervisor offers the greatest incentive for supervisors to refrain from discriminatory or retaliatory conduct altogether.
After hearing comments from both sides of this issue, the committee members voted. Only nine (9) committee members voted to advance the bill to the House, but those votes were insufficient for the bill to clear the 19-member committee.
Source: The Associated Press, March 10, 2011.