Before authorizing a transfer, demotion or other adverse action based on, make sure you check the employee’s file. That’s especially true if the employee (or someone closely associated with the employee) has recently filed an EEOC complaint or lawsuit or otherwise engaged in protected activity.
If your review finds praise, awards and generally good reviews, consider that a red flag. It may be a sign that the employee is being retaliated against. Investigate further before approving any action.
Recent case: Christopher Zamora and his father both worked for the Houston Police Department. The elder Zamora sued the city. Shortly after, Christopher was demoted and transferred from a prestigious position to a less desirable one. The stated reason was poor performance, which was documented in several memos prepared by supervisors shortly before the transfer.
Christopher sued, alleging retaliation for his father’s lawsuit. He pointed out that both before and after the demotion, he regularly received awards for excellent performance.
That was enough for the court to send to a jury the question of whether Christopher was punished for the perceived sins of his father. (Zamora v. City of Houston, No. 4:07-4510, SD TX, 2011)
Final note: Remember, timing means a lot to judges and juries. That’s especially true when, as in this case, an employee has earned accolades and then suddenly finds he can do nothing right. It doesn’t pass the smell test.