A manager's single stray comment can cost you an age discrimination lawsuit

by on December 15, 2008 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

How a legitimate termination became age discrimination lawsuit

Sometimes an inappropriate comment uttered by an intolerant manager can undermine the most diligent, by-the-book termination.

All line managers should be trained to avoid what happened in this case.

Low grades for poor effort

As a part-time post office employee, Henry DiCarlo lugged sacks of mail and operated sorting machines. He was hired on a 90-day probationary basis, with performance reviews scheduled every thirty days.

DiCarlo was slow and inefficient. He didn’t respond well to feedback and made little improvement. Sure enough, at the end of the probationary period he was shown the door.

His boss had maintained accurate documentation that proved DiCarlo hadn’t made the grade. Sounds like a slam dunk, right?

Wrong. When one of his supervisors asked DiCarlo for more effort, DiCarlo argued that he was tired and needed a rest. The supervisor replied

DiCarlo was “no spring chicken” and would never get promoted to supervisor because of his age.

After he got canned, DiCarlo filed and won an age discrimination lawsuit.

The court was swayed by the fact that the supervisor who made the “no spring chicken” comment had the authority to fire – and that both the comment and the decision to fire DiCarlo were made in close proximity. That meant, despite the presence of clear documentation, age discrimination may have been a pretext for the termination.

Bottom line: Loose lips lose age discrimination lawsuits

Cite: DiCarlo v. John E. Potter, Postmaster General, U.S. Court of Appeals, 6th Circuit, No. 02-4010, 2/20/04.

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