Watch out if your reorg affects only one worker

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

If you terminate a current employee during a reorganization process and then hire someone outside the terminated worker’s protected class, you can count on a lawsuit that will go to trial.

Recent case: Denise Burgess worked as a public affairs officer for a federal agency. Burgess is black, as was her assistant.

When Burgess got a new white supervisor, things deteriorated. First, she learned her subordinate was being terminated. After she complained, she found herself out of a job because of a sudden reorganization. She was the only affected employee. Shortly after, the supervisor created a new position similar to the old one and hired a white employee. Burgess sued for discrimination.

Now the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered a trial, based on the limited reorganization and the quick new hire. (Burgess v. Bowen, No. 10-2081, 4th Cir., 2012)

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