Workplace stats can help disprove discrimination intent

Nothing rankles employers more than being accused of discrimination when the statistics show that their workplace is a model of diversity and equal opportunity.

You can turn those statistics in your favor, much as employees have tried for years to show that the lack of employees of a certain gender, age or race is evidence of discrimination. It’s a clever way to turn the so-called “disparate impact” case in your favor.

Recent case: Judith Rollins, age 60, retired as a teacher in the Clear Creek Independent School District and began drawing a full-retirement check. Because of a teacher shortage, the district rehired Rollins for a one-year term and also allowed her to collect her pension. At the end of the school year, it told her she had to resign and then reapply in August when the district would know if it still needed teachers.

Rollins sued instead, alleging age discrimination since only retired teachers—who presumably are all over age 40—had to quit and ask to be rehired. All other teachers had their contracts automatically renewed.

The school district trotted out statistics that showed it had hired a total of 156 employees over age 40, which makes up about 15 percent of its work force. Although the court didn’t consider those stats as an absolute defense against the charge the district had discriminated in this particular case, it considered the figures good evidence supporting lack of a discriminatory motive. It was then up to Rollins to show that age was the real reason the district asked her to resign. (Rollins v. Clear Creek Independent School District, No. G-06-081, SD TX 2006)