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Always investigate discrimination complaints to ferret out boss bias, prevent retaliation

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Firing,Human Resources

Ignoring a discrimination complaint can set in motion an un­­stop­­pable litigation train wreck. That’s especially true if you fail to in­­vestigate a boss who ends up retaliating against the complaining employee.

Recent case: Michael Campbell, who is black, became one of the first branch managers at Enterprise Rent-A-Car. By most objective standards, Campbell was a good manager. His branch met all goals for sales, customer satisfaction, service and profits.

Campbell’s income was based in part on commissions, and he wanted to earn more. When an opening occurred at another branch, he let his supervisor know he was interested in the position. Instead, Enter­­prise picked a white manager whose previous branch had not performed as well as Campbell’s.

Campbell applied to manage two other branches, but his boss refused to release him for transfer, which Enterprise requires before seriously considering a candidate. Campbell complained to higher-ups that he was being discriminated against be­­cause of his race. Enterprise didn’t do anything about his complaint.

Shortly after, he was terminated, allegedly for making an error. When he showed he had not erred, he was rehired—only to be fired again for another alleged error, which he also claimed he didn’t make.

Campbell sued, alleging race discrimination and retaliation.

The court said a jury should decide whether he suffered discrimination—and retaliation for complaining in the first place. (Campbell v. Enter­­prise, No. 5:11-CV-424, ED NC, 2011)

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