Punishing someone who has filed EEOC or other discrimination claims is illegal. But that shouldn’t stop you from enforcing reasonable rules. Courts won’t ordinarily view as retaliation minor disciplinary actions that don’t cost employees any pay or benefits. To be retaliation, discipline must be so serious that the punishment would dissuade a reasonable person from complaining about discrimination in the first place.
Recent case: Percy Orum, who is black, went to work as a detention officer for what became the Department of Homeland Security. He applied for a promotion to special agent, but wasn’t promoted until after he filed a discrimination claim.
Years later, he attended a refresher course at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in New Mexico. The airline lost Orum’s luggage, and he waited at the airport until it arrived late in the evening. He called the training supervisor and explained. The supervisor firmly told Orum he had to leave his hotel early enough the next day to get to the course on time. Orum left the hotel early, but tired and pulled over to nap. He was several hours late, and the training center sent him home.
Orum then filed a lawsuit alleging that his dismissal from the training program was retaliation for the discrimination claim he had made long ago.
The court dismissed his case, noting that Orum lost no pay or benefits and was able to attend a later training program. The court said being sent home from training was not the sort of punishment that would deter a reasonable person from complaining about discrimination. (Orum v. Chertoff, No. 05-00795, ND CA, 2007)
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