If an employee calls the company discrimination hotline to report alleged wrongdoing while you are in the process of disciplining her, think twice before you fire her.
Make certain your underlying reasons are rock-solid. Otherwise, you risk an immediate retaliation lawsuit.
Recent case: Jessica Gonzalez and her sister worked at a Houlihan’s restaurant with Gonzalez’s boyfriend. When the sisters clocked in one morning, the boyfriend was clocked in too, even though he was home in bed. No one was sure who clocked him in, but the company suspended the sisters.
Gonzalez then called the company hotline to report discrimination against Hispanics in table assignments. The company fired her hours later; her sister was not fired.
Gonzalez sued, alleging discrimination and retaliation. The court threw out the discrimination charge, but said a jury should decide whether Houlihan’s fired her for calling the hotline or for the time clock violation. Since her sister was not fired, the court said there was reasonable suspicion that the real reason was the complaint. (Gonzalez v. Houlihan’s, No. 05-C-7193, ND IL, 2008)
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