When co-workers clash, offer transfer option

Personality clashes almost always affect work, and inevitably one of the combatants will file a formal complaint. Defuse that tension by suggesting that one or both co-workers transfer to other positions.

Doing so will not amount to retaliation against the worker who complained. Offering the transfer option to warring co-workers isn’t an ad­­verse action as long as neither is forced to accept the offer.

Recent case: Linda Baez complained to her supervisors that her paychecks didn’t reflect her hours. She placed some of the blame on a co-worker.

The paycheck problem was fixed, but the relationship between Baez and her co-worker deteriorated.

Baez claimed, among other things, that she was ignored, that she found kitchen knives in the lunchroom sink (which she apparently took as a threat) and that someone placed a doll splattered with red paint by her front door at home.

Difficult People D

Baez kept complaining and management pulled the employees into a meeting. There, both were offered a transfer to other positions. Neither accepted the offer.

Baez then sued, alleging harassment and retaliation for complaining about the paycheck problem. She also said the transfer offer was punishment.

The court disagreed on both counts. First, the “harassment” she claimed was better characterized as a series of annoyances. Second, what happened outside work was something Baez couldn’t tie to her employer. Finally, the offer to transfer wasn’t an adverse action since Baez wasn’t forced to accept the transfer. It tossed out the case. (Baez v. Visiting Nurse Service of New York, No. 10-Civ-6210, SD NY, 2011)

Final note: The employer handled this case right. It corrected the paycheck problem and made sure Baez was paid for all time worked. It tried to solve the conflict with reasonable suggestions. Those actions helped it get the case dismissed fast.