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Brace for lawsuit if ‘demotion’ involves less prestige, fewer opportunities

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Hiring,HR Management,Human Resources

Employees who are transferred against their will often sue for discrimination—especially if the new job is less prestigious and makes the employee feel like she has to quit.

For example, in the following case, an older teacher claimed she suffered an adverse employment action when she was demoted to substitute teacher at the same time younger teachers were hired.

Recent case: Diana Hrisinko and other experienced New York City teachers with teaching certificates found out they were being moved into substitute teaching positions. The school system blamed the moves on declining student enrollment—and also said older teaching certificates were less desirable than new ones.

It said that’s why it hired the younger teachers.

Hrisinko sued, alleging age discrimination, and claimed she had no choice but to quit. She said that being a substitute teacher is less prestigious than having one’s own classroom and doesn’t offer the same opportunities for promotion and tenure.

The court agreed Hrisinko had endured an adverse employment action even if her pay and benefits were the same. The court also agreed that the system’s hiring of younger teachers might be evidence of age discrimination. The court reasoned that only older teachers held older certificates; thus they were the only teachers affected by the decision. The court sent the case to trial so a jury can decide whether discrimination occurred. (Hrisinko, et al., v. New York City Department of Education, No. 08-6071, 2nd Cir., 2010)

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