Benefits like vacation, sick leave, relocation payments and the like must be provided equally to all similarly situated employees. Don’t reward some with additional perks and leave others out—unless you’re willing to risk a lawsuit.
Recent case: Michael, who is black, works for the U.S. Postal Service. When a group of seven postal workers at his location, all Asian or white, were reassigned to other locations because the office where they worked was scheduled for closing, Michael ended up involuntarily transferred to an office more than 50 miles from his home address in San Francisco.
The Postal Service had a policy that paid relocation expenses for employees who moved more than 50 miles from their old residence because of a reassignment. For some reason, Michael didn’t receive the benefit, even though he requested it. One of the other postal workers did receive the payment.
Michael filed a lawsuit, alleging discrimination.
The court said that not paying the benefit was an adverse employment action, and that Michael had shown he hadn’t received it while someone outside his protected class had. Since the Postal Service had no explanation for the omission, it had nothing to counter the claim. (Hayes v. Donahoe, No. 12-cv-02964, ND CA, 2013)
Final note: When a group of employees are part of the same employment action, make sure that someone in HR oversees the process. Then make sure everyone is treated equally when it comes to any benefits.
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