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Look for firing trends that could signal bias

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in Firing,Human Resources

In a case that illustrates why you should review all your employment decisions for potential hidden bias, a California appeals court has ruled that employees can use other employees to testify that they, too, were discriminated against in the same way.

Recent case: Dewandra Johnson worked for United Cerebral Palsy of Los Angeles until she became pregnant and had to take a short disability leave. When she called to say she was ready to return to work, she was told to report to a meeting. There she was fired for allegedly falsifying time records.

Johnson sued, alleging she had been terminated because her lesbian boss didn’t like pregnant women.

Johnson tried to introduce evidence that the same supervisor routinely fired women after they revealed they were pregnant. Four women besides Johnson came forward with similar stories.

Several other women signed affidavits testifying they either knew of employees who were fired for becoming pregnant or had attended meetings in which they discussed how to fabricate termination reasons for pregnant employees. Others said they had quit after the supervisor made work difficult for them when they were pregnant.

The trial court wouldn’t consider this so-called “me too” evidence, but the appeals court reversed and ordered that the evidence be admitted.

It reasoned that if so many women supervised by the same person told such similar tales, a jury should decide whether that was proof that Johnson, too, had been targeted for termination due to her pregnancy. (Johnson v. United Cerebral Palsy of Los Angeles, No. B198888, California Court of Appeal, 2nd Appellate Division, 2009)

Final note:
Do a self-audit to ferret out any discrimination patterns, especially those linked to a single supervisor.

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