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Employee wants transfer to avoid harassment? Be sure to note that she requested it

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,HR Management,Human Resources

Here’s a tip that can save you from a nasty retaliation lawsuit following the transfer of an employee who has claimed sexual harassment. If she’s the one requesting the move, be sure to document that request very carefully.

She may later claim that the transfer was retaliation for complaining. If you have documentation that she requested it, you kill that claim.

Recent case: Marva Courtney worked in the Greensboro office of the North Carolina Department of Transportation. She grew increasingly uncomfortable when she began to perceive that her supervisor was staring at her breasts and buttocks. She eventually complained to HR.

She requested an immediate transfer while HR investigated the matter. HR instead transferred the supervisor and then began investigating the case. It interviewed co-workers and all the parties.

HR concluded that there was no concrete evidence that any ogling on the supervisor’s part rose to the level of sexual harassment.

When Courtney learned that her supervisor was coming back, she said she was afraid to work in the same location. She was then transferred to an office in Winston-Salem, about 30 miles away.

Later, she was terminated, allegedly for failing to secure her equipment and other problems. Courtney sued, alleging the transfer was retaliation.

But the court tossed out her claim, reasoning that she had not lost pay and that she had requested the move. (Courtney v. North Carolina Department of Transportation, No. 1:09-CV-680, MD NC, 2010)

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