No matter the bad behavior of supervisors, always be ready to prove to a court that you execute your duties without any hint of bias. Doing so may save HR professionals like you from personal liability.
Recent case: Darrel, who is black, was terminated after he was absent and didn’t follow his company’s call-in procedures. He claimed he was really fired because his supervisor was a bigot intent on punishing him for complaining about racist talk in the workplace.
Meanwhile, the company went belly-up, and, under law, a bankrupt entity cannot be sued for relief. So Darrel sued his supervisor and the HR manager personally.
The supervisor settled, but the HR manager demanded a trial. She argued that she could only be liable if she had participated in the decision to fire Darrel with the intent to punish him for reporting alleged discrimination.
The court dismissed Darrel’s case after considering the facts. The HR manager had helped make the termination decision. However, she never knew the details of Darrel’s underlying racial harassment allegation because he hadn’t been specific about his supervisor’s behavior when he called HR. Plus, he only spoke with the HR manager’s subordinate.
Darrel offered no evidence that the HR manager wanted to punish Darrel for complaining about his boss.
The court said she was merely fulfilling her HR duties, which included determining whether Darrel broke the attendance rules. (Smith v. Bray, No. 11-1935, 7th Cir., 2012)
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