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You don’t have to make perfect decisions—Just honest ones

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Hiring,Human Resources

When it comes to hiring or promotion decisions, courts will rarely meddle when companies make honest decisions—even if those decisions aren’t the best or most rational ones. Unless there’s some other underlying discriminatory reason, judges generally won’t second-guess even boneheaded decisions.

Recent case: Roger Turner, who is black, worked as an Akron firefighter and paramedic. When he claimed he was forced to work in a racially hostile environment, the city settled his complaint and Turner continued to work.

Turner later asked to opt out of his role as a paramedic to concentrate on firefighting. The city allowed him and several others to do so. Then, after a new collective bargaining agreement went into effect, he asked to resume his paramedic duties.

The city refused, citing budgetary reasons. The new union contract allowed paramedics up to 164 hours per year in overtime to attend continuing paramedic training, and all new hires had to be able to work as both paramedics and firefighters. As the city already had to allow overtime for all new firefighters, keeping Turner on firefighter-only status saved it overtime.

Turner argued that the city’s stated reason was really a cover for race discrimination, pointing out that the stated financial reason didn’t sound valid. After all, he already had paramedic training, so the city would at least save on the initial training cost.

The court refused to second-guess the city’s reasoning, absent the evidence that the discrimination claim had any basis in fact. Although perhaps not perfect, the decision about Turner’s status was rational. (Turner v. City of Akron, No. 5:06-CV-3023, ND OH, 2008)

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