Best Practice Derailed by the Details

By James Korte

The EEOC has suggested that a manager’s performance evaluation should include the manager’s compliance with Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws. More information. Keep in mind that such a grading system must be applied in a way that does not itself discriminate against employees based on their protected characteristics. In a recent District Court case, an employer withheld a manager’s discretionary bonus because he had fired an employee on medical leave, without receiving approval from labor relations. The discretionary bonus program rewarded full-time managers on a number of factors including compliance with the employer’s policies. Terminating the employee without consulting Labor Relations violated policy, but the employer explained the withheld bonus to the manager as caused by the Caucasian manager firing an African American employee.

The manager sued the employer, alleging discrimination, and the case will have to proceed to trial; all because of the employer’s injudicious explanation of the manager’s violation of policy. Even when employers follow suggested best practices – by, e.g., rating managers on policy compliance – in implementing the practice, the details matter. In this case, a little better explanation of the purpose of checking with labor relations before terminating an employee would have gone a long way.

The Case is Trost v. UPS Ground Freight, Inc., No. 17-C-4415 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 27, 2018).