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Discrimination claims harder for employees to make if bias is ancient history

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training,Performance Reviews

If you dug deep enough into any organization, you could probably find some evidence that a supervisor or manager harbored bias. But an employer who takes steps to keep bias from influencing the conditions of employment can rest assured that the passage of time will mean it’s less likely that bias will come back to haunt the company.

What that means: Just because an employee experienced unfair treatment years ago doesn’t mean you have to ignore recent poor performance. You can discipline the employee as long as the charges are fair, accurate and unbiased now.

Recent case: Jonathan McCray, who is black, had a stormy period of employment while serving as the executive director of a regional airport. In fact, he learned that at least one member of the racially divided board that hired him made several statements that could be interpreted as racially biased. The board member made the statements at the beginning of McCray’s tenure. At one point, he said he couldn’t “stand that black son of a bitch.” The man also suggested the board should take the first opportunity to “run his ass out of town.”

But several years passed without further incident. Then the board discovered that the airport’s finances were in shambles. It laid most of the blame on McCray and fired him.

He sued, alleging racial bias, and pointed to the earlier comments as evidence. But the court dismissed his case. It said the comments were history, and that there was convincing evidence that the board considered legitimate reasons—namely poor financial management—when it fired McCray. (McCray v. Gardner, et al., No. 06-1439, 4th Cir., 2008) 

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