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Boss who hired also fired? Back it up anyway

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Performance Reviews

It seems logical: If the person who hired a member of a protected class later fires that person, it can’t be discrimination. After all, why would someone hire an employee only to turn around and fire him for an illegal reason such as racism or sexism?

Most of the time, employers can win discrimination cases by showing that the same “actor” hired and fired the employee. Courts generally assume that the employer’s stated reason for discharge—poor performance, for example—is the true reason and not an excuse to cover up discrimination.

That doesn’t mean, however, that you can be loose with your discharge reasons. Make sure your reasons are valid and solid.

Recent case: Osama Ibrahim, a Muslim of Egyptian origin, worked for the city of Houston. He was hired by a black manager on the recommendation of another Muslim manager, who is also from Egypt.

The black manager later fired Ibrahim for poor performance, but not until Ibrahim and the Egyptian manager discussed the black manager’s alleged anti-Muslim prejudice. Ibrahim had recorded several conversations with the Egyptian manager in which they discussed that alleged racism.

When Ibrahim sued, he produced the transcripts of those conversations. They showed that the Egyptian manager had told Ibrahim the black manager had told him he didn’t want to hire Muslims. That was enough evidence to send Ibrahim’s case to trial.

The court said that just because the black manager had hired and fired Ibrahim did not mean he couldn’t have fired him because of his race, national origin or religion. The employer will have to persuade a jury it had solid performance reasons for the discharge. (Ibrahim v. City of Houston, No. H-07-4329, SD TX, 2009)

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