Gary Goodman was an acting district manager with a spotless performance record over 18 years. He was turned down for a promotion to district manager of a state agency whose governing body is appointed by the governor and state senate.
He sued, claiming that he wasn't given the job because he and his family are registered Democrats, while the employee who won the job was a Republican. He brought the suit under the First and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantee freedom of speech and association.
A federal appeals court upheld a lower court decision that political discrimination was a motivating factor in the hiring decision. (Goodman v. Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, No. 00-2493, 3rd Cir., 2002)
The court used a three-step test to decide the case. To prove bias based on political affiliation, an employee must:
1. Work in a job that doesn't require political affiliation.
2. Maintain an affiliation with a political party.
3. Show that party politics was a substantial or motivating factor in a negative job decision.
Advice: Make sure your managers know that hiring and firing is nonpartisan. To protect your company from charges like these, be able to show that you would have made the same job decision even in the absence of the protected affiliation, and even if you knew of the employee's political leanings.