Earlier today, I was reading a decision from the Court, regarding a sexual harassment case. It seems that an assistant manager for a Flying J travel plaza was hit on by his manager. He rebuffed her approach, and was fired/rehired/suspended for two weeks/suspended for one week/suspended until he could move to another Flying J 120 miles away. He sued, claiming that the transfer to a location 120 miles from his home was an "adverse employment action."
The guy could not simply pack up and move to the new town, as his wife had a debilitating back injury, according to the Court, so I'm guessing she needed to stay relatively close to the Cincinati, OH, medical centers.
The Court ruled for the plaintiff (the assistant manager), but in his dissent, Judge Gilman posed an interesting question:
If a 20-minute increase in daily commute time, an extra 100 miles of driving on 12 additional days per month, and a 60-mile increase in a daily commute are not “objectively intolerable” changes in the terms and conditions of employment, what makes the 120-mile transfer in the present case an adverse employment action?
Let's see if we can help the judge out, shall we?
120 miles is roughly the distance from the Court's location in Covington, Kentucky, to Muncie, Indiana.
120 miles to and from is an extra 240 miles per day, roughly from Covington to Ypsilanti, Michigan.
240 miles per day times five days is an extra 1,200 miles per week (Covington to Millinocket, Maine). I'm assuming the guy works five days a week.
1,200 miles per week times 50 weeks (assuming a two-week vacation) is an extra 60,000 miles... twenty times the distance from Boston, MA to San Diego, CA.
Bear in mind this is ADDITIONAL driving for the guy. If his car gets 20 miles per gallon (and a lot of convenience store assistant managers cannot afford a car that gets that kind of mileage), that's an additional 3,000 gallons of gasoline per year. At $2.25 per gallon (which is what we're paying in the Detroit metro area), that's an additional $6750.00 per year -- you heard me, SIX THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED FIFTY DOLLARS PER YEAR -- just for gas (never mind the wear and tear on his car).
At a speed of 60 MPH, 120 miles is an extra 2 hours on his daily commute. Each way. At 70 MPH, it's an extra one hour forty minutes. Each way.
If the guy works 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM, he has to leave his house at 5:00 AM, get to work at 7:00, leave work at 3:00, and get home at 5:00. If he's like me, he has to get up an hour before he leaves for work (shower, shave, dress, make coffee, find keys, etc.), so he gets up at 4:00 AM. To get the recommended eight hours sleep (getting up at 4:00), he has to be in bed by 8:00 PM... leaving him a munificent three hours with his wife (the one with the bad back, remember?).
Each week, he gets to spend an extra 16 hours, forty minutes in the car... when he could be taking care of his wife's bad back.
Each year, he spends an extra 833 hours in the car... an extra five full weeks (at 168 hours per week)... when he could be taking care of his wife.
Yeah, I would say costing this poor guy $6750 per year (just in gas, mind you), and 833 hours of commuting time, would constitute an "adverse employment action."