If you plan to terminate employees who work for you under contract, plan to document exactly when you tell them their contracts won’t be renewed.
Here’s why: Employees have only a short time to file discrimination claims. If they miss the deadline, they lose the right to sue. And that clock starts running when the employer tells the employee she will be out of a job when her contract expires.
Recent case: Renée Hartz, M.D., worked as a professor of surgery for a university hospital. She took the job after leaving a tenured position elsewhere and signed a three-year contract that put her on the tenure track. However, shortly after she signed the contract, she lost her surgery privileges.
Still, when her first contract was up, the organization offered her a second three-year contract. This time, however, told her that if she didn’t make it past the tenure committee during the second year, her contract would not be renewed.
Hartz did not get tenure, and the hospital terminated her when the contract expired. Convinced that she had really been the victim of sex discrimination, she filed an EEOC complaint.
But she did not file until nearly 400 days after her second tenure request was denied. That was too late. Under the law, she had 300 days from the time she knew her contract would not be renewed (i.e., when she was denied tenure) and, therefore, missed her chance to sue.
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals threw out her case. (Hartz v. Tulane Educational Fund, et al., No. 07-30506, 5th Cir., 2008)
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