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Warn bosses: One comment could ignite racial case

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in Leaders & Managers,Performance Reviews

Remind supervisors that any comments they make about race or another protected characteristic can come back to haunt the company. It doesn’t much matter whether the comments come before or after a termination decision has been made.

Recent case: Ross Nelson, who is black, was terminated from his position as a UPS driver when he refused a demotion to part time after poor performance. He sued, claiming that after the company decided to fire him, but before he was informed, he overheard his supervisor say “we are going to fire that n…..r today.”

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals said Nelson could use the statement as evidence in his discrimination case, even though it was allegedly made after UPS had decided to fire Nelson. Fortunately for UPS, that one comment wasn’t enough for Nelson to win the case. (Nelson v. UPS, No. 08-4042, 7th Cir., 2009)

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