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Protect against bias allegations: Involve hiring manager in any termination decision

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Firing,Human Resources

It’s a good standard policy: The person (or persons) who made the hiring decision should also take part in any firing decision. That way, the employee can’t argue that discrimination based on an obvious protected characteristic like race, sex or handicap must have been at work. After all, why would the same people who hired the employee—knowing his protected status—then fire him because of that characteristic?

Recent case: Jeffrey, who is black, worked in information technology for R.J. Reynolds. The manager who recommended hiring him also gave him excellent performance reviews.

Then Jeffrey made some changes to the company’s computer firewall that allowed traveling employees to use their laptops to connect to the corporate network. This apparently caused serious problems. Jeffrey soon undid the changes, but he never told anyone about the mishap and his role in it.

R.J. Reynolds learned of the problem anyway. When the company figured out what had happened, it decided to fire Jeffrey. The decision makers included the original hiring manager.

Jeffrey sued, alleging race discrimination. But he couldn’t get far because he lacked specific evidence of discrimination.

Plus, R.J. Reynolds pointed out the obvious: that someone who hires an applicant knowing his race wouldn’t turn around and fire him because of his race, especially after also providing good evaluations. The court agreed and dismissed the case. (James v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, No. 1:09-CV-552, MD NC, 2013)

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