Kyaw Nyunt, a U.S. citizen of Burmese origin, worked for the government agency that broadcasts Voice of America radio programming. After the agency failed to promote Nyunt several times, he filed a complaint alleging age and national origin discrimination. Then he filed a federal lawsuit alleging age, national origin and race discrimination.
The agency asked the court to throw out Nyunt’s race charge since he hadn’t alleged such discrimination in his internal complaint. Nyunt said complaining of national origin discrimination was the same as complaining of racial discrimination. The court disagreed, concluding that Congress wouldn’t have created two separate categories if it thought the two were the same. It tossed the race claim. (Nyunt v. Tomlinson, No. 06-1152, DC DC, 2008)
Advice: Remember, employees can conceivably charge multiple kinds of discrimination. Your only sure bet is to make sure you treat everyone fairly and your decisions don’t favor any particular group.
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- Review all reprimands so they don't become 'Adverse actions'
- If possible, have the manager who hired the employee also do the firing
- Equal enforcement keeps juries from wondering about bias
- Take extra anti-harassment steps with young staff
- Your attorney's expertise is key to crafting severance agreements that stick