Employee Transfer Requests Turns Harmful for Employer

The US Supreme Court has denied certiorari in Kalamazoo County Road Commission v. Deleon, 135 S. Ct. 783 (2015). This means that the decision of the Sixth Circuit given in Deleon vs. Kalamazoo County Road Commission, 739 F.3d 914 (2014) stands and employers may soon need to reevaluate their approach to internal transfers of employees.

In Deleon, the Sixth Circuit had ruled that an involuntary lateral transfer of an employee may constitute an adverse employment action sufficient to give rise to a claim of discrimination. An employee who seeks for a job transfer and works in that for a period of 10 months still owes the right to claim that the transfer constituted an adverse employment action in support of his claim of discrimination.

Robert Deleon had applied for an open job as an equipment and facilities superintendent in the same office where he was working for the last 25 years as an “Area Superintendent” for the Commission. The job description stated that the position would involve working in a garage surrounded by loud noises and diesel fumes.

After an interview, Deleon was informed that he did not receive the position. He admitted that his computer skills, which were a substantive qualification for the position, were insufficient. Consequently, the commission hired another candidate who left the position shortly thereafter. The Commission then offered the position to an external candidate who eventually declined.  Deleon’s transfer was “involuntary” because the transfer took place after months passed in his initial application. Deleon filed a suit for alleging race and age discrimination after working for around a year in the position.

The Sixth Circuit Court concluded that Deleon’s transfer was an adverse employment action that supported a discrimination claim. No reasonable employee could interpret a transfer as an attempt to punish him for exercising his antidiscrimination rights when he gave his employer no reason to believe that he did not want the transfer and every reason to believe that he did. An employer in the Sixth Circuit may now be liable for employment discrimination whether they deny or grant an employee’s request for transfer.

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