Sometimes, even the best HR professionals may feel paralyzed when faced with a major employee discipline decision, such as whether an employee should be fired.
They hedge and keep asking supervisors questions, or keep an investigation open to get more information.
If this sounds like your HR office when dealing with a discrimination complaint, relax. The fact is, no decision will ever be perfect and no decision needs to be.
Being honest and acting in good faith count for more than being right. As long as the decision is based on a reasonable investigation and good faith, chances are a court will conclude the reason was nondiscriminatory and legal.
Recent case: Noble Scott, who is black, worked for UPS for 18 rocky years. After he filed an EEOC claim that was dismissed, he was fired and rehired six times for infractions that ranged from insubordination to “stealing time.” Because he filed a union grievance each time, UPS reinstated him each time with a lesser sanction.
Then UPS fired Scott one last time after a supervisor reported that Scott had been insubordinate, rude and uncooperative. HR made the termination decision after talking with Scott’s supervisor and another manager who verified the supervisor’s account.
Scott sued, alleging retaliation for his earlier EEOC complaint. But the court tossed out the case, reasoning that the HR professional who fired Scott honestly believed that he had been insubordinate. (Kelly v. United Parcel Service, No. 06-CV-02162, DC CO, 2008)
Final note: It helped that HR had good notes to show what supervisors reported. Good records win lawsuits because they offer a glimpse into the inner workings of a company.
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