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Discovered new hire’s litigious background? Don’t retaliate

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in Employment Law,HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Performance Reviews

Hired a dud who, you just found out, has a history of crying discrimination? Make sure you have solid, business-related reasons for any discipline you take. Here’s why:

A quirk in Title VII makes it unlawful to retaliate against a new employee just because he or she filed a lawsuit or discrimination complaint against a former employer—even if you learn your new hire has a history of filing such complaints.

Recent case: Jose Abreu was a NYPD police officer until he accepted a job as a cadet with the Suffolk County Police Department. While still with the NYPD, he had filed an EEOC complaint alleging discrimination based on his Hispanic origin.

Later, when he was at the training academy, the Suffolk County Police Department got anonymous phone calls disclosing that Abreu had been involved in several internal investigations as a witness (but not as a target). The new employer also found out about the EEOC complaint.

Abreu turned out to be a less-than-stellar cadet, according to his superior officers in Suffolk. They booted him out and he sued. His claim? That the Suffolk County Police Department retaliated against him for filing the complaint against his old employer.

The court agreed that Title VII makes it illegal to retaliate against employees who engage in protected activity. That protected activity includes filing an EEOC complaint—or even an internal complaint—against any employer, not just the current one. Fortunately for the Suffolk County PD, it had solid evidence to back up its allegations of Abreu’s poor performance. (Abreu v. Suffolk County Police Department, et al., No. 03-CV-5927, ED NY, 2007)  

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