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Decision-Making paper trail: The best kryptonite to lawsuits

by on
in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Employers that take the time to create good paper trails seldom lose discrimination lawsuits. Those who can show the rationale behind a decision find that few employees can come up with anything to counter that rationale.

For example, if your organization is planning to downsize or change its business focus and strategy, those discussion notes and plans should be saved. Then, if an employee claims she was terminated because of her race or some other protected characteristic, you can readily show what was really behind the decision.

Recent case: Atlantic Northstar hired Frandelle Gerard, who is a black Crucian (a person from St. Croix), to work in its real estate department. She worked in a Virgin Islands office with one other Atlantic Northstar employee, who is white.

Gerard lost her job five months later due to what Atlantic Northstar said was “financial constraints.” Her white co-worker kept her position.

Gerard sued, alleging race and national origin discrimination. But the company had solid documentation showing that it was exiting the real estate acquisitions business. It also was able to show that the white co-worker who kept her job performed administrative functions, rather than real estate work.

Gerard couldn’t counter Atlantic Northstar’s evidence, so the case was dismissed. (Gerard v. Bridge Capital, et al., No. 07-3194, 3rd Cir., 2008)

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