When it's time to restructure your workplace, beware the potential legal dangers of transferring employees to jobs that have no growth potential. That could be viewed as an adverse action that triggers a discrimination lawsuit.
Your best defense is to highlight the positive aspects of the transfer, including explaining exactly why you think the new organizational chart uses everyone's talents and strengths to their and the organization's benefit.
That means never talking down any new position and making sure you haven't created a job that could be seen as a dead-end dumping ground. As the following case shows, demonstrating that a new position can lead to a promotion can stop a discrimination lawsuit dead in its tracks.
Case in point: Mary Langley, an African-American female, worked for Merck as a manager alongside a white male manager. When the company reorganized, it created a new program coordinator position and chose Langley, with no change in pay.
She sued for race discrimination, claiming the new job was a dead-end with no chance for advancement and, therefore, an adverse employment action.
Not so, said Merck. The company told the court that it had already promoted a program coordinator to an associate director position, which was higher than Langley's old manager position. The court tossed the case, since there was no evidence that Merck considered the job a dead-end position or that it viewed the transfer as punishment against Langley. (Langley v. Merck, No 05-3205, 3rd Cir., 2006)
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