Under what’s called the Cat’s Paw Theory, employers can’t defend themselves against employment discrimination claims by saying they didn’t know a supervisor was biased. The theory was first introduced in Shager v. Upjohn, a 1990 7th Circuit Court of Appeals decision.
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Poor performers facing disciplinary action may despair when they realize they can’t improve fast enough to avoid termination. Often, that’s when they request a transfer to another open position within the organization. But before you agree to a transfer, be sure to demand the employee’s request in writing and outline exactly why the transfer is being arranged.
Much as you would like to, you can’t control every statement that comes out of supervisors’ mouths. Someday, someone somewhere within your organization will utter an ethnic comment or slur. That doesn’t have to become the basis for a successful lawsuit—as long as you have a track record of treating all employees fairly.
Employees who believe they have been disciplined more severely than co-workers may blame the disparity on some form of discrimination. They may think that their age, sex, national origin or some other protected characteristic is the real reason. Even if you know you haven’t been biased, be prepared for the accusation.