There are plenty of good reasons why you might have to change an employee’s schedule. Don’t get sloppy about how you implement the change. Make sure you document exactly why you are rejiggering the usual schedule.
Recent case: Judy Smith, who is black and has medical problems, filed a series of EEOC complaints against her employer, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Smith, a medical support technician, sued the agency after her schedule was altered. Before the change, she worked from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Afterward, she was assigned to a shift that ran from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Smith sued, arguing the reason for the change was retaliation for all her earlier complaints.
But she admitted that she had no problem working the new schedule. Plus, it was clear the VA had a reason for making the change, according to its documents. That was enough for the court to dismiss Smith’s claim. (Smith v. Shinseki, No. 1:08-CV-272, MD NC, 2011)
Final note: Altered work hours can be retaliation under the right circumstances. For example, a single parent who needs to pick up her child by a certain time or who would have to make alternative child care arrangements if she moved to a different shift altogether could make a compelling case. The change could be so significant that it would dissuade a reasonable employee from complaining in the first place.
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