Boss triggers lawsuits? Review all decisions — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

If you have a manager or supervisor whose decisions have caused lawsuits that you have lost, be on your toes the next time that manager has to make an employment decision. Make absolutely sure that you can pin the decision on some objective reason.

If you can’t, you run the risk that a court will let a jury hear how the manager violated employment laws in the past. Then they’ll be able to use that evidence to decide the new case.

Recent case:
Douglas Miller, who worked for North American Lighting, suffered from several medical conditions that required him to take FMLA intermittent leave. Miller also had to undergo periodic random drug tests to check for illegal substance abuse.

Miller took one such urine test, administered by a third-party laboratory, and tested positive for marijuana use. North American fired him. His supervisor made the decision based on written company policy. Plus, the company had always terminated employees who tested positive for drugs.

Miller sued, alleging he had been fired because his supervisor didn’t like when employees used FMLA leave.

In fact, North American Lighting had been sued twice before after the same supervisor fired employees who had taken FMLA leave. The company lost both times, apparently because juries didn’t believe it when the supervisor said the discharges were unrelated to employees’ FMLA usage.

Miller tried to use the previous jury verdicts to show his supervisor was out to get him for taking FMLA leave.

The court said prior lawsuits against the decision-making supervisor might be discrimination evidence, but only if closely related. In this case, it was clear the supervisor was relying on something objective—a third-party drug test—when he fired Miller. The court dismissed the case. (Miller v. North American Lighting, No. 07-CV-2195, CD IL, 2009)

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