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Beware giving contradictory reasons for a layoff

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Performance Reviews

When explaining to employees the reasons for a layoff, make sure you don't contradict yourself. That's especially true when the same manager gives an employee different reasons: A jury can take those contradictions and infer discrimination.

Case in point: When Robin St. Clair, an African-American, was laid off, she was told that her performance wasn't the reason. Rather, "current business conditions" forced the company to reduce staff. Still, she sued for race discrimination, alleging that the company immediately hired a white male to fill her job. During a deposition, her manager alternated between citing poor performance and business conditions as the termination reason.

Because of the inconsistency, the court said a jury should decide whether the manager's contradictory reasons were proof of discrimination. (St. Clair v. FMC Technologies, MD FL, 2006)

Tip: Choose a business reason for your decision, and stick with it. Coming back later and alleging work deficiencies makes an employer appear dishonest.  

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