Employers say the darnedest things at the wrong time. Take, for example, a termination meeting. This is not the time to be defensive and anticipate the employee’s discrimination charges. Instead, stick with the hard facts: why the company has decided that termination is necessary.
Recent case: Dennis Imwalle, who was over age 60, worked for a U.S. subsidiary of a Swiss corporation. He was shocked when one of the Swiss managers showed a PowerPoint presentation that included a slide suggesting the company cut costs by discharging “elderly people.” Imwalle explained that such actions are illegal in the United States.
Shortly after, the corporation fired Imwalle. At the termination meeting, the Swiss manager went to great pains to explain that he did not discriminate. He even had prepared a written statement that he read aloud.
Imwalle sued for age discrimination and retaliation. A jury rejected his age discrimination claim, but awarded him damages for retaliation. The company appealed.
Now the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the jury verdict. It reasoned that the jury could logically infer that Imwalle was fired in retaliation since the Swiss manager began the meeting by denying age discrimination. (Imwalle v. Reliance Medical Products, No. 06-4619, 6th Cir., 2008)
- Deadly duo: Harassment followed by retaliation
- Asperger's syndrome may be an ADA disability
- Handle supervisor harassment with a good policy, timely investigation and independent review
- It takes more than protected status to win lawsuit
- Hey, boss, you better call HR! Warn managers against trying to resolve complaints informally