Most employees have ample obligations outside the workplace. They might be taking care of a disabled or elderly relative or they could have small children waiting to be picked up from school. Regardless of the reason, many employees are suddenly shocked when their work schedule is changed on them, making it impossible to meet their family obligations. When they approach their employer to ask for some flexibility, they are quickly told “no.”
Are inflexible work schedules really a form of employment discrimination? Generally, they are not. Simply being inconvenienced by a shift schedule is not enough to support a discrimination claim. But every case is different, and you should consider the following factors.
Let’s say you report workplace harassment to Human Resources. One week later, your schedule gets changed so it is now impossible for you to take your children to school. Is this discrimination?
Quite possibly. The fact that the change followed so closely on the heels of your harassment complaint makes it look like the action was taken in retaliation. Of course, your employer could claim that they had valid reasons for the change, but they will need to produce evidence.
If the employee requests the change, then it is less likely that your employer is taking a negative employment action. After all, your employer has simply refused to take any action by denying your request to change your schedule.
By contrast, if your employer forces through the change over your objection, then you might have a stronger case.
To bring a discrimination claim, you must show that an employment action was adverse. This means that it must have been detrimental in a material way.
As the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has recognized in Spees v. James Marine, Inc., a less favorable schedule that causes an inconvenience might qualify as an “adverse employment action,” depending on the circumstances. However, you still need to show that this adverse action was motivated by a protected characteristic, such as sex, age, or disability, among others.
For example, if your new schedule makes it difficult for you to care for your children or grandchildren, you might claim sex and/or age discrimination. Likewise, if the schedule hampers your ability to receive medical treatment, you could claim you are being discriminated against because of a disability.
In this area of law, everything depends on the circumstances of your case. You should carefully document how the job has interrupted your life and meet with an experienced Columbus employment discrimination lawyer for assistance.
Employers do not need to bend over backward to accommodate an employee’s preferred schedule. If you feel an employer is retaliating against you, or if you suspect they are motivated by discriminatory bias, then you might have a legal claim.
Contact a Columbus employment discrimination lawyer today. Marshall Forman & Schlein LLC, is a leading law firm focusing on employment law. We will be happy to discuss your case during your confidential consultation.
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