I complained about the poor air quality in our building causing respiratory problems, as have many other employees. Several of us have filed complaints with Cal-OHSA. A couple of days ago Cal-OSHA wrote my employer, and shortly thereafter HR called me in and told me that they were transferring me to another site/job to "protect my health" and demanded I complete an accommodation request. I refused. They are going ahead with the transfer anyway "as an accommodation" based on my complaints while denying the building has a problem and without a medical certification. I've talked to several lawyers and get contradictory responses to the legality of imposing an accommodation (although they agree it is retaliation). Can an employer unilaterally initiate and impose an accommodation?
But regardless, this would be only considered retaliation only if the new work location is significantly inferior. If it legitimately addresses the air quality issues at least with regard to you and doesn't put you in place where your job duties or compensation are inferior to the ones you had so far, this would not be retaliation.
If you are an at-will employee, an employer is free to change your terms of employment, including your work location at any time with or without notice as the see fit. This may or may not be considered forcing an accommodation upon you. An employer generally should not be forcing an accommodation. The question is how to address this the best. More facts would be necessary to determine that. You should discuss your legal options with an experienced local employment attorney.
Sacramento Employment Lawyer
You are looking at this from the wrong legal perspective. Regardless of what the employer calls it, unless you have an express agreement to the contrary, you are an at will employee and as such your employer has the right to change the terms and conditions of your employment at any time and for any lawful reason. That means you can be transferred to another location at will, regardless of whether they call it an accommodation or not.
If you could prove that the move was truly retaliation vs. the employer's legitimate solution to a problem, then you might be able to make such a claim. However it seems to me that if an employer has several employees claiming that the air quality in a particular building is bad, the employer is not limited in its options to costly repairs of the building. Another reasonable alternative is to move employees into another building. Your post does not suggest the move to the new building is harmful to you in any way, so it is hard to provide any guidance about whether you have any chance to prove unlawful retaliation.
Finally, an employer can make a unilateral move to accommodate a known disability. However the entire accommodation process is triggered by a disability. If the air is making you sick which affects one or more of your major life functions then that would be a disability and your employer does not need your permission to accommodate that disability. It simply needs to accommodate it.
Good luck to you.
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There are a lot of facts missing to fully answer your question. It would be important to know where are they transferring you, geographical area. Is it the same position? does it provide the accommodations that you requested without creating an undue burden to the employee and to the employer? Are they in compliance with Cal-Osha if they move you to another site? Did Osha find any violations?
It is not easy to determine if your employer is retaliating against you based on the facts provided. It looks more like the employer is trying to accommodate your request.
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