Leave denied? Yeah, so is employee’s lawsuit

Some employees want to blame anything bad that happens to them at work on discrimination. The reality is usually different. Judges understand that — they don’t want to meddle in HR matters if they don’t have to.

If an employee tries to argue that something minor — such as being denied leave on one occasion —amounts to discrimination and retaliation, courts are unlikely to hold the employer liable.

Recent case: Martin, a 75-year-old mailman, filed an internal complaint with the Post Office alleging age discrimination. The basis for his claim: That his supervisor never approved a request to take a particular day off. That, Martin claimed, showed age discrimination.  

The case was quickly dismissed at every level — first internally and later at the EEOC.

When Martin filed a federal lawsuit over the leave denial, the trial court also quickly tossed out his case. It reasoned that having a single day of requested leave denied wasn’t an adverse employment action. It didn’t cost Martin any lost pay or benefits. And it certainly wasn’t the sort of thing that a reasonable employee would consider serious enough to dissuade him from complaining about discrimination.


Martin appealed to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which also quickly dismissed his case. (Ogden v. Brennan, No. 15-50698, 5th Cir., 2016)

Final note: Courts are running out of patience for frivolous lawsuits and quickly tossing them out.

Don’t let that knowledge make you complacent, however. You must still respond to every EEOC complaint and lawsuit. Otherwise, the employee could win by default.