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After employee has complained, be prepared to defend even minor work changes

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in Employment Law,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training,Performance Reviews

Employees who can show that their employers took action against them because they complained about alleged discrimination may have a retaliation case.

To prove retaliation, employees have to show that they endured an adverse action—something that would cause a reasonable employee to hesitate to complain in the first place.

But employers can defend against alleged retaliation by showing they had a good reason for the adverse action. For example, if a supervisor moves an employee to another position for a legitimate management reason, that’s not retaliation. Consider the following case.

Recent case: Robert Worley, who works for a police department, claimed he experienced retaliation after he spoke out on matters of public importance. Essentially, he claimed he was retaliated against for exercising his First Amendment rights.

The alleged retaliation consisted of some critical comments on a performance evaluation and a temporary assignment to work on the police department’s operations manual.

The court agreed that, under some circumstances, reassignments or poor performance evaluations resulting in a lower raise could be retaliation. But in this case, the police department explained that it based the evaluation criticism on co-worker complaints. And it said it reassigned Worley because he had experience creating operations manuals that others didn’t have.

That was good enough for the court to dismiss the case. The police department had legitimate explanations for its decisions. (Worley v. City of Lilburn, et al., No. 09-15537, 11th Cir., 2011)

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