Massachusetts: Denying Lateral Transfer May be Considered Discriminatory

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January 29, 2019

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In Yee v. Massachusetts State Police, the state Supreme Judicial Court stated that by not granting Yee, a self-identified Chinese Asian-American, a lateral transfer from one Troop to another in the State Police, while granting the same transfer to Caucasian employees, his employer caused an “adverse employment action.” Specifically, Yee claimed the transfer would have afforded him additional opportunities for compensation for working overtime and on details. The Court stated that an adverse employment action is not limited to denial of a promotion, but includes a material difference in the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.

This ruling is important because it broadens the way courts may review a requested transfer if an employee is able to show that other employees in the transfer location receive certain employment considerations, such as greater compensation opportunity.  The Court also cautions against unlawful bias where “subjective procedures are used to determine which candidates receive a lateral transfer.” Employers should take care to ensure neutral processes are in place to address both vertical and lateral movement within their organizations.

Action Items

  1. Have job transfer procedures reviewed to ensure process is equitable.
  2. Implement objective criteria for determining transfer procedures and train managers accordingly.
  3. Subscribers can call our HR On-Call Hotline at (888) 378-2456 for further assistance.

Disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance concerning employment-related issues. It is presented with the understanding that ManagEase is not engaged in rendering any legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please contact the services of your own legal adviser.

© 2019 ManagEase

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