Monday, April 14, 2014

Know Your Evidence, Part 10

I really can't explain the results in this particular case from the Northern District of Illinois, except to say that somehow the company just didn't bother to look at its own internal timekeeping system, with the result that it failed to realize it wrongly terminated an employee for tardiness when, in fact, the record showed that she had been at work on time. The result was a reversal by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals of summary judgment, followed by this Title VII retaliation case making its way back to the trial court where it will be heard by a jury, unless it settled. Which is what I recommend for the employer.

The company kept saying that it terminated the plaintiff for a single reason-tardiness-sometime after she filed an EEOC complaint alleging she'd been discriminated against on the basis of race when she was denied a promotion. True to form, she then sued for retaliation, and also true to form, the original race discrimination claim was dismissed on summary judgment. But because the alleged basis for the company's decision--i.e. the fact that the plaintiff was late to work--was inconsistent with the company's own time punch records, the Court of Appeals found that there was a factual dispute, and sent the case back for trial.

This type of error should be picked up in the initial factual investigation when a company decides an employee should be terminated. As you read the court's opinion, the company (and to a certain extent its counsel) simply looks like it did not understand its own rationale for the termination.  The end result is predictable.

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