Do you need to change someone’s job duties to economize? Don’t fear that doing so will trigger a lawsuit—as long as you can show the changes were necessary and not just an excuse for discrimination.
Recent case: Nadean and Jerry, who are both black, worked as custodians for the Kennard school system. They also drove school buses in the morning and late afternoon, before and after their custodial tasks. That added overtime to their pay, and they sometimes earned more overtime cleaning up after sporting events.
Then an independent assessment concluded that custodial services would be more efficient and the district could save money by cleaning later in the day instead of during school hours. Nadean and Jerry were reassigned to the new shift. That meant they lost their bus routes.
Both sued, alleging race discrimination.
But they couldn’t identify any nonblack custodians who didn’t also have their schedules changed. Thus, the court said, they couldn’t claim discrimination. Plus, the district had clearly shown it had good business reasons for the change. (Griffin, et al., v. Kennard Independent School District, No. 9:12-CV-145, ED TX, 2013)
Final note: Employees don’t always like it, but employers have the right to manage the workplace in ways that reduce costs and promote efficiency. Courts seldom second-guess reasonable business decisions. In this case, the school district made changes after an independent organization evaluated the workplace and developed cost-saving suggestions.
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