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How companies can protect themselves against retaliation claims

On Behalf of | Apr 20, 2020 | Employment Law |

If you run a business in New Jersey or any other state, it is important that you don’t retaliate against employees. However, you shouldn’t shy away from disciplining employees simply because they have recently engaged in a protected activity. In most cases, the facts in a given matter will determine if an employee has been subject to an adverse action.

The timing of an action is an important factor

In the case of Lewis v. Clark County School District, an employee claimed that she was retaliated against by her employer after being put on a lifting restriction. The restriction was put in place because she had arthritis and carpel tunnel syndrome. Six months later, the woman was transferred to a school three miles away. The Ninth Circuit ruled on appeal that the amount of time between the accommodation and the transfer made it difficult to show that any type of retaliation occurred.

The employee’s new role matters when deciding if retaliation occurred

In the case involving the school district employee, she was allowed to keep her hours and pay. The Supreme Court has ruled that an adverse action generally only occurs if a worker is required to engage in work that is dirtier or harder than his or her previous role. Other courts have ruled that merely moving a worker from an office to a cubicle couldn’t necessarily be seen as humiliating or an effort to prevent a worker form engaging in protected activities in the future.

Avoiding discipline can be problematic

In some instances, failing to discipline an employee now could make it harder to take action against employees in the future. This is because creating or applying policies that don’t apply equally to everyone can result in a retaliation claim. Companies can protect themselves against unfavorable court rulings by documenting everything that they do.

An employment law attorney may be able to help companies engaged in disputes with current or former employees. Legal professionals might use employment records and other documents to show that a worker’s claim should be dismissed.