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Court: Job changes must cause real harm to form basis for employee’s lawsuit

by on
in Employment Law,Human Resources

These days, it seems like employees won’t hesitate to sue over even minor work problems.

But judges don’t want to waste their time on frivolous litigation; they’ll usually act fast to dismiss sham lawsuits.

That’s especially true when it is obvious the employee is complaining about what, at most, constitutes a slight inconvenience, like a shift change.

The bottom line is that unless an employer makes a job change that causes both subjective and objective harm, there is no case.

Recent case: Sonia worked for Sikorsky, a helicopter manufacturer. She sued after the company allegedly ignored its own rules on shift assignments and didn’t use seniority as a factor when setting schedules.

The court considered the change both objectively and subjectively. It concluded that a shift change is at most a minor inconvenience for most employees. Plus, in this case, it turned out that Sonia actually wanted the shift she got, so she couldn’t argue it harmed her.

The fact that the assignments violated a seniority rule didn’t matter when there was no subjective harm done. (Hernandez v. Sikorsky Sup­­port Services, No. 11-41289, 5th Cir., 2012)

Final note: The best defense often comes from employees themselves. Keep track of how they react to changes. Ask how a new shift or location is working out. Then note the response in case someone later says the change caused harm.

Always follow your usual rules so there’s no chance employees will cry favoritism.

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