The scenario: A U.S. citizen who was born in Mexico received mostly favorable performance reviews until new owners bought the company for which she worked.
The new ownership group immediately noticed that most of the employees of the company they’d acquired were Mexican. They said they wanted to change the demographics of the staff.
A regional supervisor was hired and told to recruit “a higher class of individuals with the look of Ken or Barbie.” The new manager interpreted the statement as an order to hire only workers who were “petite, attractive, young and Caucasian.”
The hiring manager immediately began to try to get rid of the Mexican woman. Just a few weeks after the new owners had taken over the company, a white woman was hired to replace the Mexican woman, who was terminated. She was told that she was being let go because of poor performance. However, she wasn’t provided with a warning about her allegedly substandard work or given a chance to improve.
The Mexican woman contacted the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Legal challenge: The EEOC sued for national-origin discrimination.
The ruling: The company lost. The court refused to dismiss the lawsuit, saying there was considerable evidence that the woman was fired because of her Mexican origin.
The judge pointed to the comments about changing the demographics of the staff as well as the fact that the woman was never told about her allegedly poor work.
The skinny: Employers that fail to warn staffers of poor performance before terminating them usually wind up on the losing end in a court of law.
Cite: EEOC v. Ryan’s Pointe Houston, U.S. Court of Appeals 5, No. 19-20656, 9/27/22.
(From the Oct. 21, 2022, issue of HR Managers Legal Alert for Supervisors. To start your no-obligation trial subscription to the publication right now, please click here.)