You might have rogue managers in your midst without even knowing it. If one of your supervisors has it in for a subordinate for discriminatory reasons, and you rely on his recommendation to terminate an employee, you may be in trouble.
That’s because accepting the recommendation will carry the taint of discrimination. Unless HR or upperconducts a truly independent investigation to confirm that there are legitimate reasons for firing the employee, your company will be liable.
Here’s how to conduct an independent investigation: Talk to all parties involved and get all the facts before reaching a decision. Then make sure you carefully document the process—that is, whom you talked to, what they said and what you concluded.
Recent case: Vira Hyde sued for discrimination after she received poor reviews from her supervisor and was then fired on his recommendation. In court, the company said it had investigated her situation, but couldn’t prove it had done so.
On the other hand, Hyde testified that she believed her supervisor was discriminating against her. She said he—and no one else from the company—delivered her termination notice by confronting her in a client’s parking lot.
The court said Hyde should get a jury trial to determine whether the company did an independent investigation—and whether it should be responsible for the supervisor’s alleged discrimination. (Hyde v. Store Link Retail Group, No. 8:07-CV-240, MD FL, 2009)
Final note: Conducting regular surveys is another way to ferret out supervisors who discriminate. If you assure confidentiality, subordinates will reveal hidden problems so you can get to the bottom of them. Try including an open-ended question at the end of the survey such as “Is there anything else you would like to bring to management’s attention at this time?”