MEMBER ALERT!     Virtually everything that comes out of the FLRA loudly broadcasts that management can assign any work it wants to an employee and there is little to nothing the union can do about that.  It is a management right. 

But the EEOC thinks differently.  It believes that if the dirty, unpleasant, hazardous, unusually difficult, or harmful work is assigned to a member of a protected class, then management must be able to offer a believable business-related reason for the assignment.  (And remember that everyone is in a protected class.)

In this case, a male employee was assigned work outside his normal duties as a driver to pull weeds along with the groundskeepers.  He pointed out that a similarly-situated female driver was never ordered to do so and several times the agency hired an outside contractor to do driving that he normally would have done except for pulling weeds. The EEOC found management’s explanation for assigning only the male was not believable and awarded the employee $10,000 in damages due to sex discrimination. The award was based on, “evidence that as a result of the agency’s conduct, he was stressed, irritable, unable to sleep, had nightmares of being fired, and was made to feel worthless.  Complainant’s request was supported by affidavits from two doctors, his supervisor, his brother, his mother, and himself.” It could have been worse because EEOC has the authority to award up to $300,000 when discrimination is shown.

The important message for employees is that when you feel singled out for the work no one wants, look around to see if there is a similarly-situated employee of another race, gender, national origin or on the other side of 40.  If so, talk to the union to see if there are any obvious explanations for the assignment, e.g., the personnel manual or contract assign the work to the least senior or person with the lowest evaluation score or even with the least amount of overtime.  If there is no obvious reason, the union can file a grievance and take the case to arbitration or represent you at the EEOC.  If a case is filed, keep a record of any harm the assignment caused you, actual or emotional.

(Remember to pass this piece on to someone who you think might need the information, and if you have thoughts about this problem yourself, use the blog space below to share them.)

About AdminUN

FEDSMILL staff has over 40 years of federal sector labor relations experience on the union as well as management side of the table and even some time as a neutral.
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