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Transfer, training aren’t adverse actions

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Transferring an employee to another position that pays the same and carries the same benefits as the original position is not an adverse employment action.

That’s true even if the new job also requires that the employee participate in additional training. Employees can’t sue merely on the basis of such a transfer.

Recent case: Jackie, who is black, was hired as an inpatient pharmacist at a military facility. She had several run-ins with managers over following doctors’ orders and preparing medications.

Her employer first concluded that perhaps Jackie should be terminated, but instead transferred her to an outpatient pharmacy so she would retain her job. The new position had similar duties and her pay and benefits did not change. She was, however, required to participate in additional training sessions.

Jackie sued, alleging that the transfer was discriminatory.

The employer contended that, unlike a discharge or demotion, the transfer didn’t qualify as an adverse employment action. After all, it argued, Jackie continued to earn the same pay and received the same benefits even if her duties changed somewhat.

Plus, it argued, there’s nothing wrong with requiring employees who are moved to new assignments to undergo additional training until they are up-to-speed on the new routine and job requirements.

The court sided with the employer and concluded that Jackie had no standing to sue because she hadn’t suffered an adverse employment action. The court also noted that additional training is often required even following a coveted promotion; by nature, extra training isn’t adverse. Jackie’s case was dismissed. (Outley v. Luke & Associates, No. 16-60233, 5th Cir., 2016)

Final note: In this case, the employer benefited from providing the employee with a second chance. Firing her would have been an adverse employment action.

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