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Good-faith treatment for all is good policy, and good protection against lawsuits, too

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in Firing,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training,Maternity Leave Laws,Small Business Tax

Employees who claim they have been discriminated against typically have to show that their employers singled them out for poor treatment because of a protected characteristic.

It’s easy for employers to counter that if they can show they always act in good faith. The best way to do that is to apply the rules equally to every employee.

Recent case: When Mindy Slater was fired while she was expecting, she immediately sued, suspecting pregnancy discrimination.

But her employer had a clear paper trail, including internal e-mails that showed it was concerned about her performance and had shared those with Slater before firing her. For example, Slater missed work without notice, took many personal calls and generally didn’t regularly work her scheduled time. Then she made a mistake that her supervisor considered serious, which triggered her firing.

In court, Slater argued the discharge reason was just an excuse for getting rid of a pregnant employee.

But the court looked at the entire picture, including the earlier problems, and concluded the employer had acted in good faith when it decided to fire Slater. There was simply no evidence that pregnancy entered into the calculation at all. (Slater v. Progress Energy Service Co., et al., No. 8:09-CV-208, MF FL, 2010)

Final note: In this case, internal e-mails saved the day. Had any of the company’s e-mails included negative references to pregnancy, the court might have seen things differently.

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