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First time hiring member of protected class? Have legitimate rationale before terminating

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in Hiring,Human Resources

When you hire someone, you have presumably concluded that the new employee has met at least the minimum requirements for job success. Of course, sometimes that turns out to be wrong.

But think twice if you’re tempted to fire an employee who isn’t working out, and that person is your first-ever employee belonging to a particular protected class. Do you have truly legitimate reasons for termination? Are those reasons based on objective and measurable criteria? If not, get ready for a lawsuit.

Recent case: Suwana Reynolds was the first black officer hired by the Minnetonka Police Department. Like other new officers, she had to undergo a one-year probation and training program. Although she had no disciplinary problems and had received praise from fellow officers, her supervisor did not evaluate her highly. Other officers warned her that discrimination might be at work.

The department fired her and she sued.

The court ordered a jury trial after it heard that the supervisor had made questionable comments on race and treated Reynolds differently than white trainees.

It noted that the police chief had given her a good recommendation and said she would make a good officer in another jurisdiction. The court wondered why she would make a good officer elsewhere, but not in Minnetonka. (Reynolds v. City of Minnetonka, No. 09-CV-6321, DC MN, 2010)

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