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Assigning unpleasant work isn’t discrimination

by on
in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Supervisors don’t always manage to divide the workload evenly among employees. That’s especially true if the job includes widely varied duties and responsibilities and the co-workers have different strengths. As long as the labor division isn’t obviously intended to demean a particular individual based on his or her protected status, such workload assignments are within the purview of management and not something that will support a discrimination lawsuit.

Recent case: Donte took a probationary job as a direct support assistant trainee at a home for disabled individuals. His duties included “inter­­acting with the residents, providing medications, taking residents to and from medical appointments, assisting them with their activities of daily living such as toileting, showering, and other matters of personal hygiene, and maintaining the residence.”

Donte’s supervisor often had Donte perform tasks that required physical strength while she assigned less strenuous tasks to his co-workers.

Donte eventually sued when his job didn’t become permanent. He alleged sex discrimination, claiming his supervisor told him he got the heavy-lifting assignments because he was stronger than his female co-workers.

But the court looked at his job description and noted that it in­­cluded “maintaining the residence” in addition to many other tasks. Because all the physical tasks Donte was assigned were essen­­tially maintenance tasks, he couldn’t complain for being singled out to perform them. They were part of his job and the em­­ployer had the right to direct its workforce as it saw fit. His case was dismissed. (Grant v. New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, et al., No. 12-CV-04729, ED NY, 2013)

Final note: Be sure to include a general provision in your job descriptions that specifies the job includes “other duties as assigned.”

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