If an employee suspects his manager of bias, you can’t expect him to go to that particular boss to make a complaint.
And you can’t expect to escape a lawsuit if you discipline the employee for going around the boss to report his concerns.
That’s sure to earn you a retaliation lawsuit.
Recent case: Lonnell Roberts, who is black, worked for the city of New Bern until he was fired after receiving a evaluation.
That happened shortly after he complained about discrimination in promotions. Roberts had applied for a promotion after telling his supervisor and HR that there weren’t enough blacks in higher-level jobs.
When another black employee who hadn’t even applied for the promotion got the job, Roberts thought the reason was retaliation. Then he learned that his evaluation was downgraded because he had allegedly gone outside the chain of command when he complained about discrimination. He sued for retaliation.
The court ruled he should get a jury trial on the retaliation issue. Because the very people who he was supposed to complain to were the ones who may have discriminated against him, the court said using the chain-of-command violation as a disciplinary tool had the appearance of possible retaliation. (Roberts v. City of New Bern, No. 4:07-CV-173, ED NC, 2009)
Final note: Have at least one alternative way to report discrimination, such as a confidential hotline.
- How to Fire an Employee the Legal Way: 6 Termination Guidelines
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- The hot lawsuits of 2014: Discrimination, harassment
- Recalcitrant worker? Document and fire
- Isolated incident or slight doesn't add up to retaliation
- Retaliation: Don't sweat link between complaint and firing, if you would have fired anyway