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New boss is tougher on employees? That’s not bias without other evidence

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Some supervisors expect more from their employees than others. So when a new supervisor arrives on the scene, some employees who previously got satisfactory reviews may face declining evaluations. Some may end up fired for poor performance.

Does the arrival of a tougher scoring supervisor also mean extra liablity? Not necessarily, as a recent case shows.

Recent case: Deborah, who is white, received satisfactory reviews. But when a new supervisor arrived (a black male) she was put on a performance improvement plan. Eventually, she was terminated.

Deborah sued, alleging race and sex bias. But she didn’t have any evidence other than different reviews from different supervisors. That wasn’t enough. The case was dismissed. (Nardella v. Philadelphia Gas Works, No. 14-4454, 3rd Cir., 2015)

All the right moves

In this case, the employer did everything right. It allowed the new supervisor to evaluate the em­­ployee more critically than the previous supervisor, but also gave the employee a chance to turn her performance around. The employer then tracked her performance on the improvement plan and didn’t make a final decision until the plan ended.

The company also ended up hiring another white female to replace the employee. Although you can’t choose a specific employee based on a protected characteristic to avoid litigation (that would perhaps discriminate against someone else), you can end up using the hire when defending yourself against discrimination.

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