Courts aren’t in the business of second-guessing all your employment decisions, as long as those decisions seem reasonable and rational. Judges aren’t a super HR office, ready to undo your work.
In fact, most of the time, courts bend over backward to leave your decisions alone—unless they see or hear something that makes them think something suspicious is going on.
If you keep good records, can easily explain your decision-making processes and don’t have any discrimination to hide, you’ll win most lawsuits. The following case shows why it pays to have good, solid justifications for every decision.
Recent case: Mescal Urich and Lynne Daniels, who are both women of color, worked as legal secretaries for a legal clinic. The clinic also employed office managers who directed secretarial work. The clinic frequently revised staff roles to meet changing budgets and client needs.
At one point, the clinic changed the office managers’ position descriptions, giving them more authority. It then started moving managers around and allowed two office managers to share one of the reconstituted jobs—a position that Urich and Daniels apparently coveted. The two sued, alleging discrimination.
But the clinic came in with records showing that the reconstituted job was one that the office managers had done before, so it really wasn’t a new job. It argued therefore that Urich and Daniels hadn’t been passed over. There simply wasn’t an open position to which they could apply.
The court said it wasn’t going to interfere with what seemed like a rational decision to give a position to higher-ranking employees who already knew how to perform most of the essentials tasks of the job. The court found there was no evidence the decision was based on discrimination. (Urich & Daniels v. Mid-Minnesota Legal Assistance, No. 07-1309, DC MN, 2008)
- How to Make Legally Smart Job Offers
- Make sure written employment contracts exclude oral promises
- 2011 salaries expected to remain the same -- Increase your income odds with 4 ongoing strategies
- When harassment allegations surface, launch comprehensive investigation right away
- Know the law: Simply taking FMLA leave doesn't necessarily mean worker is disabled