It’s considered protected activity when employees complain about harassment based on ethnicity or other protected characteristics such as sex, race or religion. That means employers can’t retaliate against employees for having filed a harassment complaint.
Now a court has clarified the obvious: Promoting an employee isn’t retaliation.
Recent case: Dimple, who is of East Asian descent, worked as a staff pharmacist for a CVS store. She complained that other staff pharmacists called her the “little Indian lady,” and the district manager criticized her Indian clothing as unprofessional. She said another manager remarked that she was so “bossy” that she “might as well be from Germany.”
Even so, Dimple asked for a promotion to store pharmacy manager.
CVS found her a store, promoted her, gave her a salary increase and allowed her to work the new job on a three-day schedule.
Soon, however, it became clear that Dimple was having trouble in her new role. The pharmacy was messy, inspections revealed that drugs were improperly stored and messages on the pharmacy voicemail piled up. She was placed on an improvement plan and eventually fired when things didn’t get better.
That’s when Dimple sued for retaliation, alleging that the promotion had been a set-up for her to fail.
The court tossed out her claim. It noted that since the promotion improved her working conditions, came with more money and accommodated her schedule request, it was hardly punishment. (Jain v. CVS, No. 14-1498, 8th Cir., 2015)