Supervisor’s take-home: Because you could be surprised during a termination meeting, always maintain a paper trail of the reasons you decided to fire someone.
What happened: A female crew member wasn’t well liked by her coworkers, who found her abrasive. Her manager decided to end her employment, and he even hired her replacement.
What people did: The supervisor told the woman to meet with him. Before the boss could tell her she was being dismissed, however, the woman announced that she was pregnant. The manager didn’t let her go during the meeting. Instead, he planned to transfer her to a different facility and terminate her after she delivered her baby.
A few days later, the manager told the woman she was being transferred. She refused to be moved to a different facility unless she could receive a salary guarantee. The manager said he couldn’t provide a salary guarantee, then he ended her employment.
Legal challenge: The woman sued for pregnancy discrimination, pointing out that she was terminated just a few days after she announced her pregnancy.
Result: The company won. The court dismissed the lawsuit. The judge said the woman wasn’t discriminated against because of her pregnancy. Here’s why: The decision to terminate her was made before she revealed her pregnancy. As a result, the close timing between her pregnancy announcement and her termination didn’t support her allegation of pregnancy discrimination.
The skinny: When deciding whether employers acted with discriminatory intent, courts usually look at the mindset of the manager who made the decision to pursue the adverse employment action at the time the decision was made, not at the time the decision was actually announced.
Cite: Daneshpajouh v. Sage Dental Group of Florida, U.S. Court of Appeals 11, No. 21-13202, 1/20/23.
(From the March 3, 2023, issue of HR Managers Legal Alert for Supervisors. To start your no-obligation trial subscription to the publication right now, please click here.)