Vendors, customers and employees had complained about Jane Sturdivan, a 59-year-old office manager. But her fate was sealed when a 24-year-old office accountant said he could no longer work with Sturdivan and threatened to quit. Instead of losing the young accountant, the company fired Sturdivan, saying the accountant was simply more valuable to the company.
Sturdivan sued for age and sex discrimination but lost. "This is no more than a simple business decision which, good or bad, courts will not second-guess," the 10th Circuit said. (Sturdivan v. Tri-State Feeders, Inc., 10th Cir., No. 98-6412, 2000)
Advice: Never sugarcoat the truth about a dismissal, it will allow the fired employee to raise doubts about your motive. In this case, the employer's plain speaking made short shrift of Sturdivan's case. She provided no evidence that the explanation given was a pretext for discrimination.
- Steer Clear of 'Take It or Leave It' Early-Retirement Offers
- 'Sex-plus' discrimination claims hard to prove
- When conducting bias investigations, you don't need to be perfect--just reasonable
- Worker pregnant? At least say, 'Congratulations!'
- Be prepared to explain your reasonable rationale for firing protected-class worker