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Can a shift change be retaliation?

You probably know that it's unlawful to retaliate against an employee for filing a human resources complaint or taking steps to communicate their concerns. Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for employees to face retaliation after doing so.

Retaliation is the most common claim of discrimination within the federal sector. It is one type of discrimination that the Equal Employment Opportunity Act protects you against and something that you should watch out for if you decide to make a complaint at work.

Here's an example of how retaliation might take place. Let's say that Bob, a manager, decides to ask Jenny to take on additional work that doesn't belong to her department. She refuses, saying she has too much to do and shows him her list of jobs still to complete. This wasn't the first time he had asked, so she decided to talk to the human resources representative. She tells the human resources department that Bob was trying to get her to do his work and that he was putting too much stress on her department while not working himself.

When the HR department talks to Bob about his actions, he accepts it and agrees to do better. However, as the floor manager, he decides that he's going to start scheduling Jenny during less preferable hours in an attempt to get her to leave. As a result, Jenny has a hard time getting to work, clocks in late several times and ends up quitting.

In this case, Bob may have been retaliatory, because he changed Jenny's schedule due to being upset about her report. That's unfair and may not be legal.

Employers can't transfer employees to less desirable positions or take any kind of retaliatory actions if they make complaints, even if a complaint is filed against them directly. Bob's actions were the cause of Jenny's trouble at work, and they should be scrutinized. A shift change could be considered to be retaliation, especially when it's designed to force Jenny to quit or be late so often that she is later fired.

Not all cases are the same, but if you're dealing with retaliation because of making a report, you should write down what happened and when, so that you can discuss it with your attorney. If you have evidence of retaliation, such as threatening emails or messages, testimonies from coworkers or even security footage, those supporting pieces of evidence could help you better prove your case, too. The EEO is the law, and employers need to abide by them, even if they are hearing negative complaints from employees.

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