There is a line in the movie Master and Commander: Far Side of the World where Captain Jack Aubrey says to the ship surgeon, Stephen Maturin, “Stephen it makes me so low when you talk about the service like that.” That sums up how I feel when I have to report about poorly done HR.
Poor decision making
A Michigan trucking company, Morse Moving & Storage, will pay a fine of $30,000 to the EEOC as the result of poor HR decision making. I say poor HR decision making although I would be surprised is any professional HR person was involved. No HR person of any skill would allow their employer to fire someone the JUST HOURS AFTER they file a complaint of race discrimination. I am surprised that any manager of any skill would do that. That however, is what they did, and as a result they also got charged with retaliation in addition to discrimination. You don’t have to have an HR manager involved to be doing bad HR. Bad HR is a process, not a department.
The company did not have to pay anything on the racial discrimination claim. If they had not engaged in retaliation it is possible that the racial discrimination claim may have had no merit. That requires a different standard of proof. The claim of retaliation was much easier to prove. Complaint followed by job action = retaliation. Proof done.
A $30,000 lesson learned
The company originally tried to fight this, but facing the facts opted to bow to the will of the EEOC and agreed early in litigation to pay the fine and write that check.
“EEOC is committed to enforcing anti-retaliation provisions to ensure that employees are free to exercise their rights without fear of retaliation,” said Kenneth Bird, acting regional attorney for EEOC’s Indianapolis District. The EEOC is getting very good at it. So think twice before engaging in retaliation.
Retaliation takes different forms
I wrote about the various forms retaliation may take in What retaliation in the workplace may look like. It includes not just termination, but also shunning, denying promotions or increases, reassignments, abusive bosses or even abusive co-workers. Retaliation claims are harder to defend and your lawyers hate them. Just avoid actions that can be interpreted as retaliation.