Employers that make public commitments to creating a more diverse workplace don’t risk losing a lawsuit solely based on that stated objective. An employee alleging discrimination because he isn’t part of the targeted demographic for diversity still has to show that he was fired or not promoted for a discriminatory reason. He can’t simply argue that the diversity commitment proves his case.
Recent case: Bruce, who is white, worked for Mack Truck for 38 years. He began in accounting and slowly added HR duties to his skill set. He did not have significant skills or training in labor negotiations or union contract administration.
Mack Truck and Volvo merged and the new company retained some employees in Allentown, but moved many others to Volvo’s North American headquarters in North Carolina. The new company also announced it was committed to a more diverse workplace and sought to place more women in seniorjobs.
Then the recession hit and the company decided to cut jobs, especially in the Allentown HR group. Bruce’s boss, a woman, decided to trim one HR position, while retaining a female HR professional who had extensive labor union experience. She terminated Bruce.
He sued, alleging reverse sex discrimination. Bruce pointed out that with his termination, the Allentown HR office had far more women than men. He argued that the company’s commitment to a more diverse workforce was evidence he had been eliminated because of his sex.
The court said the policy itself wasn’t evidence of discrimination if the company could show it had retained a woman instead of Bruce for legitimate reasons. Bruce admitted he didn’t have laborand that the woman did. That sank his case. (Andersen v. Mack Trucks, No. 11-2239, ED PA, 2015)