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Don’t use nepotism policy as smoke screen for bias

by on
in Discrimination and Harassment,Firing,Human Resources

Paul Yancey Sr. began working for the railroad in the 1960s and rose to the position of general maintenance foreman. In 1993, his son, Paul Jr., started working there, too. But five years later, the general manager gave Yancey a choice: Either he or his son had to leave because of a company anti-nepotism policy.

Yancey Sr. returned the next day and was told to turn in his keys, clean out his desk and go home. He sued for age discrimination and won a $169,625 judgment, plus reinstatement.

The court said that discrimination, not a nepotism policy, was the real reason for the firing. It said the railroad essentially waived its own nepotism policy by letting the Yanceys work together for five years, plus it replaced the elder Yancey with a younger foreman. (Yancey v. Weyerhauser Co., No. 01-2090, 8th Cir., 2002)

Advice: Companies live and die by how consistently they stick to their policies. Courts won't be amused if you ignore a policy for five years, then try to pull it out of the closet to fire a worker.

That's especially true when you're firing a worker in a protected race, sex or age category. Have your managers review how consistently you're applying all your policies, not just one on nepotism.

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