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Straight talk, business reasons help shoot down bias lawsuit

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in Admins,Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources,Office Management

Vendors, customers and employees had complained about Jane Sturdivan, a 59-year-old office manager. But her fate was sealed when a 24-year-old office accountant said he could no longer work with Sturdivan and threatened to quit. Instead of losing the young accountant, the company fired Sturdivan, saying the accountant was simply more valuable to the company.

Sturdivan sued for age and sex discrimination but lost. "This is no more than a simple business decision which, good or bad, courts will not second-guess," the 10th Circuit said. (Sturdivan v. Tri-State Feeders, Inc., 10th Cir., No. 98-6412, 2000)

Advice: Never sugarcoat the truth about a dismissal, it will allow the fired employee to raise doubts about your motive. In this case, the employer's plain speaking made short shrift of Sturdivan's case. She provided no evidence that the explanation given was a pretext for discrimination.

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