Even when front-line managers don’t decide who’s hired and fired, they can still get their companies caught in discrimination lawsuits.
In one recent case, a supervisor caught an African-American employee setting off firecrackers at a job site. The supervisor notified upper management, and the employee was fired for a blatant violation of their safety policy.
Seems like a pretty simple case, right? Wrong.
The employee sued for discrimination. Two white employees were caught doing the same thing and weren’t reported by the supervisor.
The company’s defense: The decision-makers were never aware of the other safety violations. The employee was fired based on his manager’s report. If the company knew about the other employees’ conduct, they would’ve been fired, too.
But that didn’t matter to the judge. The front-line manager discriminated against the employee by taking action against him and not his white co-workers. Therefore, the company was liable.
Bottom line: Companies can be on the hook for bias that upper management doesn’t even know about. That’s why effective training and strong anti-harassment policies are essential.
Cite: Madden v. Chattanooga City Wide Service Dept.