Do you live in fear of being sued for discrimination? Don’t let it compromise your legitimate decisions. If you’re confident that you have good reasons to fire someone, don’t worry about whom you hire to replace that employee.
Even if the replacement is outside the fired employee’s protected class, she probably won’t be able to successfully sue you. Generally, courts don’t want to second-guess employer decisions.
Recent case: Pamela Wilson, age 61, worked for a company that provides mobile X-ray services. When she was fired, the company replaced her with a 21-year-old man. She sued, alleging sex and age discrimination based on nothing more than the gender and age difference.
In court, the company said it had many reasons for firing Wilson. First, she had been accused of talking on her cell phone while taking an X-ray, a violation of standard procedures. Then someone said she had been argumentative with an employee of a nursing home where she had an assignment. Plus, she frequently failed to return phone calls and sometimes refused to call the dispatcher while traveling from job to job.
The court dismissed Wilson’s case, concluding that she hadn’t successfully countered the employer’s legitimate discharge reasons. (Wilson v. Mobilex USA, No. 10-2414, 3rd Cir., 2011)
Final note: Don’t base a replacement hiring decision on the characteristics of the employee you are replacing. That might be discrimination against another protected class.