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Beware! Old slights can bolster new bias claims

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Firing,Human Resources

Here’s an important factor when considering discharge: Dis­­crimi­­nation complaints made years ago can form the basis for a lawsuit if the underlying events show a pattern of discrimination.

Recent case: Javier worked for Champion for a decade before being terminated for allegedly missing an important safety meeting. Javier is a Mexican citizen who has been in the United States since 1988 as a resident alien authorized to work.

Over the 10 years he worked for the company, he made several discrimination claims. Two involved his super­visor’s decision to give him a smaller raise than others. After complaining, he received larger raises.

He also complained to his boss that non-Mexican co-workers received more privileges, to which the supervisor allegedly replied, “They are Americans, and you aren’t. You’re Mexican and not the same as them.”

Then the supervisor OK’d Javier’s vacation request, only to revoke the approval and instead allow a non-­Mexican to take vacation during that time period. On the day before he was fired, Javier claims his boss tricked him into leaving early and then got him fired in retaliation for complaining about the vacation incident.

When Javier sued, Champion argued that Javier couldn’t use the old incidents to prove that his boss had set him up for termination in part because of an anti-Mexican prejudice.

The court disagreed and said that while the old incidents couldn’t be used as separate discriminatory acts, they could bolster his claim he was fired because of his national origin. (Gonzalez v. Champion Technologies, No. 14-11-00612, Court of Appeals of Texas, 14th District, 2012)

Final note: Before approving a termination, make sure there aren’t prior complaints against the supervisor who recommended the firing. If there are, get the employee’s version of events and then seek legal advice.

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