Here’s some encouragement for HR professionals caught in a seemingly no-win situation. If you are fired for insisting that the company comply with anti-discrimination laws, you probably can sue.
Recent case: Eugene had more than 30 years’ experience in HRwhen he was hired away from another employer to “cure a toxic workplace environment replete with systemic discrimination and other illegal conduct.”
Once on board, Eugene concluded that the company was indeed discriminating against just about everyone, including women, older workers, disabled workers and those the company perceived as being too unhealthy to insure. He also claimed that the company punished anyone who took.
He pointed out the problems to upper management. Eugene claimed that he was told that the company had “never had to write a big enough check to justify compliance with the rules.” Then he was fired.
He sued, but the company got the case dismissed because Eugene hadn’t presented specifics in his initial pleadings.
However, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated most of his lawsuit, saying Eugene should have his day in court to prove rampant discrimination, and that he experienced retaliation for reporting it and insisting it stop. (Rhodes v. R&L Carriers, No. 11-3054, 6th Cir., 2012)
Final note: Time will tell if a jury will make the company write a big enough check to clean up its toxic workplace. But first Eugene has to prove his allegations.
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