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Base all decisions on legit business needs–and then be sure to document your reasoning

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Smart employers don’t make any decisions that affect employees without documenting the reasons. You may never need that documentation, but it’s good to know it’s available.

It could come in handy if an unhappy employee claims the real reason behind the decision was discrimination. Your documentation can prove your rationale was perfectly legitimate.

Recent case: Wendy Johnson, who is black, worked as a part-time mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service.

When her post office began considering establishing new routes, it conducted a mail route audit. Johnson was third on the seniority list and was set to receive a full-time spot if three new routes were created. The carriers with more seniority were white.

Before conducting the audit, Johnson’s supervisor altered the routes that would be counted. The result was that only two routes were deemed worthy of a full-time carrier, leaving Johnson without a promotion.

Johnson sued, alleging the Postal Service had manipulated the route to deprive her of a full-time spot because of her race.

The Postal Service wasn’t able to offer another explanation, so the court ordered a trial. (Johnson v. Potter, No. 8:08-CV-01279, MD FL, 2010)

Final note: The Postal Service could easily have argued that it was changing the routes and creating just two new positions in order to save money. But it apparently hadn’t documented any reasons—much less good ones—at the time it made the change. That gave Johnson a shot at winning her race discrimination lawsuit.

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