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All other things being equal, bad attitude may be justification for layoff

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Ordinarily, employers should be leery of considering subjective factors when making employment decisions. Objective measures such as surpassing sales quotas, meeting quantitative goals and finishing assigned projects are the best measures for gauging employees.

But sometimes you have to make tough decisions. During a layoff, for example, you may discover that everyone is performing well according to objective measures. You could fall back on seniority to decide who goes and who stays. But it’s also legitimate to weigh such subjective factors as attitude and peer reviews.

If you do, just be sure you can back up your assessments with specific examples.

Recent case:
David Rydzeski was one of two employees laid off during a restructuring. He had worked as an internal wholesale salesman for several years and met his quotas and other objective success measures. Once, however, he had been written up for having a poor attitude after he got angry when he lost a workplace contest.

Rydzeski sued, alleging race discrimination. But his employer argued that it had selected him for termination because he had a “superiority complex” and didn’t get along with others. It cited the earlier angry outburst as one example.

The court said the employer’s subjective reason was legitimate and not a pretext for discrimination. Unless Rydzeski could point to another equally difficult personality who worked in the same position who was not terminated, he had no case. He could not, and the case was dismissed. (Rydzeski v. Curian Capital, No. 06-CV-01298, DC CO, 2008)

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