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Is HR protected for refusing to follow biased orders?

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in Employment Law,HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Employees who perform HR functions must adhere to the law. But what happens if management wants to fire or otherwise punish an employee for discriminatory reasons, and HR objects? Can an HR professional who is then fired for refusing to play ball proceed to file her own EEOC retaliation or protected-activity claim?

In most cases, no.

However, an HR professional who does more than just protest the discriminatory decision internally—and actually files or helps an employee file EEOC or other discrimination charges—may be able to claim retaliation.

Recent case: Evelyn Correa worked as the HR director for Mana Products until she was fired because management suspected she was helping employees file discrimination charges against it. Correa sued, alleging retaliation for engaging in protected activity—that is, for allegedly helping employees.

But the court tossed out her case when it became apparent she never did help any employees. Instead, she had actually supported each of the potentially discriminatory company decisions that led to the discrimination charges.

The court said only those who have formally and officially opposed an action can later claim protection. It was irrelevant that the company imagined Correa tried to help the employees. The fact was, she never took action to help the employees who claimed discrimination. (Correa v. Mana Products, 04-2344, ED NY, 2008)

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