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After worker complains of bias, beware even small job changes–such as less overtime

by on
in Employment Law,Human Resources

Employees who complain about discrimination are protected from retaliation. Anything that would cause a reasonable employee to rethink the original complaint is fair game for a retaliation lawsuit, including such seemingly minor consequences like losing a few hours of overtime pay.

Recent case: Theresa Billingslea was the only black woman in a shop at Ford’s Buffalo Stamping Plant. She accused a supervisor of causing her to have an accident because he was biased against women and blacks. She complained, and then Ford transferred her to another position that paid a higher hourly wage. However, there weren’t as many chances for overtime.

Billingslea sued, alleging retaliation.

The court agreed that, because she lost overtime opportunities, Billingslea lost actual income. It said that could be the basis of a retaliation suit.

Ford still won the case because it could show that it had legitimate reasons for moving Billingslea. The accident resulted in suspension of her safety certification and, therefore, she had to work in another position. Ford had records showing that all employees with suspended safety certificates were transferred, regardless of sex or race. (Billingslea v. Ford, No. 06-cv-0556, WD NY, 2010)

Final note: Remember, employees don’t have to be right about the original complaint to win a retaliation lawsuit. Basically, as long as they make the complaint in good faith, reasonably believing that they may be reporting discrimination, any retaliation is illegal if it would dissuade someone from complaining.

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