Employers can’t be responsible for making sure all their employees work only with people they like.
But what if an employee files a discrimination complaint with the EEOC and then suddenly finds herself having to work with someone she deems undesirable? Can she sue and allege that transferring the person she doesn’t like into her work section amounts to retaliation for filing the EEOC complaint?
That’s what one employee tried to argue in the following case.
Recent case: Tona Morongell worked for Miami-Dade County as a police officer. She filed a series of discrimination complaints with the EEOC. The first one was settled and she got a job she said she had originally lost because of discrimination.
Then Morongell filed a retaliation complaint, alleging that the county transferred her ex-husband into her section to punish her for filing EEOC complaints.
The court said it was not retaliation. If it were, it would mean, in the court’s words, that “it would create an unreasonable burden on employers to take into account each employee’s personal relationships before making personnel decisions.”
The court also said if it allowed the claim, it would lead down a slippery slope where “employees could allege they suffered an adverse action if any unpleasant acquaintance (e.g., an irritating ex-boyfriend, a bossy sister-in-law, an annoying second cousin) was transferred to their office.” (Morongell v. Miami-Dade County, No. 07-22762, SD FL, 2008)
Note: Clearly, courts don’t want to get involved in such workplace micromanagement. Plus, employers would probably face lawsuits from employees who were denied opportunities just because someone who had filed an EEOC complaint disliked them. That’s not what Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court intended when they authorized retaliation lawsuits.