Don't worry about assigning an employee to a job in which she'll need to upgrade her skills, even if that employee previously filed a lawsuit against your organization. Reason: As long as you don't tamper with her compensation or benefits, courts won't view your training requirement as an "adverse employment action" that can form the basis of a retaliation claim.
Recent case: Computer programmer Hanh Ho Tran was reassigned to a new supervisor after she complained of sexual harassment. After her performance deteriorated, she resigned.
Tran sued, calling her reassignments to work on the company's Web team retaliatory because she wasn't given proper training. But a district court tossed out her lawsuit, and a federal appeals court agreed. Reassignments that require new skills or training aren't adverse employment actions, the court said.
"Requiring an employee to develop new skills is not the kind of adversity that can support a case of retaliation, especially in a rapidly evolving field such as computer programming," the court said. For a Title VII retaliation claim to stick, a significant change in employment status, such as "hiring, firing, failing to promote, reassignment with significantly different responsibilities or a decision causing a significant change in benefits", must occur. (Tran v. Trustees of the State Colleges in Colorado, No. 02-1048, 10th Cir., 2004
- Remind supervisors: Constructive criticism is expected--not an excuse for employees to sue
- Don't make biased requests when using staffing agency
- More Floridians filed EEOC complaints last year
- When harassment suit looms, prompt action saves the day
- Are there special requirements for training employees who do not speak English well?