BOSTON (Legal Newsline) – Massachusetts State Police Lt. Warren Yee provided enough evidence to continue his discrimination case against the department, the Massachusetts Supreme Court said in reversing a summary judgment in favor of the department.
“We hold that where there are material differences between two positions in the opportunity to earn compensation, or in the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, the failure to grant a lateral transfer to the preferred position may constitute an adverse employment action…,” Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants wrote in the Jan. 29 opinion.
Gants added that because Yee presented enough evidence that he would have even more chances to work overtime hours if transferred to a different troop station, it vacated the summary judgment and remanded.
Yee sued the Massachusetts State Police in 2014 over allegations that it discriminated against him when he wasn’t approved for a transfer to a different station because of his race (Chinese-American) or age. The Superior Court granted a summary judgment in favor of the department, stating that Yee failed to prove he was denied because of discrimination and that he suffered an adverse employment action.
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants
While the actual statute in question, General Law c. 151B, doesn’t actually include the phrase “adverse employment action,” the court used it to determine "when an act of discrimination against an employee 'in compensation or in terms, conditions or privileges of employment' may be remedied" under it. Yee alleged that not being given the transfer was an adverse employment action since the troop he wanted to go to had more opportunities for overtime than where he currently was.
"We have not previously reached the question whether a failure to grant a lateral transfer may constitute an adverse employment action," Gants wrote. "...We thus conclude that where an employee can show that there are material differences between two positions in the opportunity for compensation, or in the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, the failure to grant a lateral transfer to the preferred position may constitute an adverse employment action under c. 151B."
Grants wrote since Yee met this requirement of showing the comparison, the court determined summary judgment for the department was improper and reversed it.
Gants wrote the opinion. justices Barbara Lenk, Frank M. Gaziano, David A. Lowy, Kimberly S. Budd, Elspeth B. Cypher and Scott L. Kafker were also on the panel.