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Giving a bonus can cost you in discrimination case

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Performance Reviews

Lisa Russell was rated "excellent" and received a bonus of $807. So what's her gripe? An African-American co-worker received a higher rating of "outstanding" and a bonus of $1,355. Russell, who is white, sued, claiming reverse discrimination.

The D.C. U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to throw out her lawsuit, saying the loss of a bonus worth hundreds of dollars can be considered an adverse employment action under Title VII.

Courts have said that not everything that makes an employee unhappy can be illegal under Title VII, and performance evaluations are unlikely to qualify unless they directly affect the terms, conditions or privileges of a worker's employment.

The D.C. Circuit, however, saw the bonus as more than a reward for good work and decided the loss of hundreds of dollars could qualify as discrimination. (Russell v. Principi, 00-5172, D.C. Cir., 2001)

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