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Easy come, easy go: Political appointees have little room to blame firings on bias

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Firing,Human Resources

In a pair of 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals cases, the court has made it clear that it has little tolerance for political appointees who clearly understand they serve at the pleasure of their elected officials and still sue when they are terminated, alleging some form of discrimination.

Considering cases from Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the court refused to reinstate the lawsuits.

Recent cases: In the first case, Northumberland County, Pa., fired its chief clerk after he admitted to a newspaper reporter that a county budget crunch was partly his fault. He sued for age discrimination when his eventual replacement turned out to be much younger.

The 3rd Circuit refused to reinstate the case after the trial court tossed it out. It reasoned that the case was clearly one of a political appointee fired by those who hired him when they were no longer pleased with his work. (Stesney v. Northumberland, No. 08-4143, 3rd Cir., 2009)

In the second case, Elizabeth Wong was hired by the administration of a former governor to run the New Jersey Higher Education Assistance Agency. She sued for discrimination when the same administration fired her.

The 3rd Circuit said it seemed unlikely that someone could convincingly argue she had been discriminated against if the same people who hired her later fired her. If discrimination were a factor, why would she have been hired in the first place? Plus, she served at the pleasure of the administration. (Wong v. Thomas, et al., No. 08-4571, 3rd Cir., 2009)

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