Generally, employers have the right to hire, fire, promote, demote and assign work at will, or as they see fit. They are not allowed to discriminate, however, and this means to take an “adverse employment action” against someone because of their race, gender, religion, disability, or other legally protected status.
What is an “adverse employment action?” Well, it usually means being fired, or suspended or demoted. Something bad. But it can also mean transferring you to a shift or a location that is inconvenient for you so that you would be forced to quit. In the U.S. Supreme Court case of Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Ry. v. White, a female employee had filed a discrimination claim with the EEOC. In response, the employer transferred the employee to less desirable work. In discussing whether or not the transfer – which ordinarily would have been well within any employer’s rights to make – was illegal, the Supreme Court wrote that the test was whether the conduct was likely “to deter victims of discrimination from complaint to the EEOC,” the courts, and their employers.” With regard to schedule changes, it wrote:
A schedule change in an employee’s work schedule may make little difference to many workers, but may matter enormously to a young mother with school age children.
So, while not every minor annoyance in the work place is actionable, an employer may not transfer an employee to a schedule or location that is so inconvenient to them that it would “deter” them from complaining about violations of their rights. Learn more about retaliation law here