No need to over-indulge chronic complainer

Some employees are never going to be happy at work. Things that might just annoy most workers may loom large for hyper-sensitive employees. When an employee complains about every little thing, what’s an employer to do?

Certainly check to see if the complaint is reasonable and reflects a real workplace problem. But if it’s just a case of peevish griping, you don’t have to bend over backwards to please a malcontent.

If he sues, he’ll probably lose because courts give employers lots of leeway.

Recent case: Joe sued Los Angeles County, his employer. When the problem seemed to boil down to a personality conflict with his boss, the county negotiated to transfer Joe to a new location with a new supervisor.

Eventually, Joe was asked to move back to his old position. That’s when he raised an alleged disability, saying that was the reason he had to stay in his new assignment. County representatives met with Joe several times to go over his medical restrictions—which, he said, included not working with his old boss. Eventually, the county relented, allowing him to stay in his new role, where he still works.

He sued anyway, alleging harassment over his disability and retaliation for threatening to move him back to his old job.

The court tossed out Joe’s lawsuit, rejecting his argument that discussing his disability was harassment. It wrote, “Minor or relatively trivial adverse actions … that, from an objective perspective, are reasonably likely to do no more than anger or upset an employee cannot properly be viewed as affecting the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.” It also said that merely suggesting a transfer was not retaliation because there had been no adverse action. Joe hadn’t, after all, been transferred. (Raseknia v. County of Los Angeles, Court of Appeal of California, 2017)