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The pendulum swings back: More courts hesitate to interfere with minor job changes

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in Employment Law,HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Sometimes, it may feel as if you constantly have a judge looking over your shoulder, interfering with ordinary business decisions. Fortunately, courts may be getting tired of all that oversight—and are now backing off a little.

Shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court made it easier to prove retaliation by lowering the standard for what it would consider an adverse employment action, courts were finding retaliation in seemingly minor management decisions.

As the following case shows, that’s not happening as much anymore. One possible reason: Courts are trying to clear their dockets of baseless lawsuits that take up valuable time and cost employers big bucks.

Recent case: Roy Dixon worked for the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department. Dixon is a Christian.

He alleged that after he asked for an accommodation for his religion—namely, Sundays off—he was transferred from his regular assignment and given other work. Eventually, however, the department granted him Sundays off.

He sued anyway, alleging retaliation for asking for the accommodation. The trial court dismissed his case, reasoning that the transfer didn’t amount to an adverse employment action because it was a minor change that didn’t alter his pay, benefits or anything else substantive.

When he appealed, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reinstate his lawsuit, reasoning that nothing his employer did amounted to punishing him for asking for Sundays off. (Dixon v. Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department, No. 09-10525, 11th Cir., 2009)

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