Is There Something Important At Stake?

Even if you can readily prove unlawful discrimination or retaliation, judges and juries will not be very impressed by complaints that a supervisor looked at you cross-eyed, or did not return your cheery “Good morning!” or did not give you a routine telephone message slip.

There is no point in complaining about trivial matters. Even if you are also complaining about important problems, the inclusion of picayune matters will drag down your case and may result in your losing everything.

Remember the first rule of successful gardeners: prune mercilessly.

Remember also the first rule of successful sailors: A few weighty items give a boat ballast and stability; too many items add up, and will sink it in a slight wind.

Different courts apply different standards to the question whether what you are complaining about is an “adverse employment action” worth suing about, or whether it is too trivial to support a lawsuit.

If there is evidence of an unlawful motive, you should consider whether something important is at stake.

  • Some examples of important actions are being fired, being suspended for a long period of time, being laid off in a reduction in force, being transferred or demoted with a significant cut in pay or responsibilities, or staying in your original job but suffering a significant cut in pay or responsibilities.
  • If these or other serious actions affect you, it is clearly worthwhile to file a charge of discrimination (or, if appropriate, retaliation for engaging in protected activity). If you do not file a charge or a lawsuit in time, then you can lose all your rights as to that action.
  • On the other hand, there is no point in filing a charge or a lawsuit about something that is trivial, such as problems that are very temporary. Some examples of claims that would ordinarily make no sense are not getting a routine telephone slip, not being invited to a party, being asked to fill in for a sick employee for a week, being transferred to an equally desirable position with no loss of pay or benefits, etc.

The decision whether to file a charge over a bad performance evaluation can go either way, depending on the immediate consequences.

  • If denial of a promotion or significant pay increase automatically flows from the evaluation and there is some basis for claiming discrimination or retaliation, it is definitely worth proceeding. A charge of discrimination or a lawsuit needs to be filed within the time limit or you will lose your right to challenge it.
  • If there are no bad consequences to the evaluation, and you do not know of anything bad that will happen in the future because of it, you should not file a charge. Save the charge for when it counts.
  • If adverse consequences do develop down the line, you should include the evaluation in your charge of discrimination and lawsuit.

This firm will only represent people who are harmed in a significant way.