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Consensus Decisions Can Deflect Firing-Bias Claims

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Firing,HR Management,Human Resources

One of the best ways to make sure a termination decision sticks is to adopt a consensus approach to the decision-making.

It’s best to include someone from the HR department as well as someone outside the employee’s immediate chain of command. That way, if discrimination or harassment charges against a supervisor come to light later, your organization can convincingly show that the termination decision was untainted.

Of course, always apply the same performance standards to every employee and be prepared to back up the consensus decision with cold, hard facts. Never rely solely on a supervisor’s opinion unless the evidence is crystal clear.

Recent case: Denise Urban was a single mother hired by Bayer to sell prescription drugs to physicians. Almost from the start, she had trouble meeting sales goals and staying on target.

Bayer placed her on a performance-improvement program. When things didn’t improve, a committee made up of an HR professional, a division sales manager and a regional manager met to discuss Urban’s performance. They reached the consensus that the company should terminate her.

Urban sued, telling the court that she had been fired because her boss was anti-single mothers and didn’t like women in the work force. But the court dismissed her case since her manager didn’t make the decision to fire her; he wasn’t even directly involved in the consensus decision. (Urban v. Bayer Corporation, No. 05-1305, DC NJ, 2006) 

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