Minor workplace changes aren't enough to justify lawsuit alleging bias or retaliation.

 
FREE EXCERPT

Courts don't want to micromanage your business. Judges understand that employers must often make workplace changes that may displease some employees.

Those changes have to be fairly substantial before a worker can successfully argue that the changes are discriminatory or intended to punish the worker for protected activity such as taking FMLA leave or reporting alleged discrimination.

Lesson: Make sure you can explain workplace changes in the context of legitimate business needs.

Recent case: Eric, a math teacher, committed suicide. He had suffered from various medical ailments over the years and took protected medical leave from time to time in order to have back surgery and a hip replacement.

But his performance had also been poor for many years. In fact, he was placed on a series of performance improvement plans aimed at correcting deficiencies.

On one occasion as a new school year approached, he was home recovering after a spinal fusion. School administrators moved his classroom from the third floor to the second floor to a classroom that was smaller than his old one. This was one of several classroom changes for teachers at the school. Because the classroom was smaller, some of Eric's teaching materials did not fit and were placed in temporary storage.

When Eric returned to work, he complained about the move. Then, facing yet another performance improvement plan, plus an unpaid disciplinary suspension, he killed himself.

His widow filed suit, alleging ADA violations. She also alleged the classroom move was retaliation for taking medical leave.

The court noted that minor workplace changes like moving someone's office (or classroom) aren't adverse employment actions unless the employee can show the changes affected his ability to perform his job. That wasn't the case here. Plus, the school district explained that it frequently...

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