Editor’s Note: Most managers are diligent, empathetic and savvy professionals who know how to get the best from their people and stay on the right side of the law. And then there are the other ones — those whose blunders land them in court, on the news and, sometimes, on HR blogs. Here are a few cautionary tales from the darker side of management:

“You’re not right for the job.” Translation: You’re too old
Hiring managers are always advised not to ask how old a job applicant is. And for good reason: The question can be used against you in an age-discrimination lawsuit. That’s exactly what happened to a Sedona, AZ-based tour operator. According to an EEOC lawsuit against the company, a supervisor asked a newly hired woman her age, and was told she was 75.

After this conversation, the new hire heard nothing from the company until she sent an e-mail asking about her start date. A return e-mail told her the supervisor and general manager didn’t believe she was right for the job. When she protested and mentioned age discrimination, she was hired for two days but then was terminated.

Now, the employer will pay $35,000 to settle the EEOC’s suit.

“You didn’t answer your phone.” Translation: You’re too old
Managers at New York-based CBS News fired a 58-year-old weatherman because they wanted to put a younger face in his place, the former employee has charged. The weatherman, George Cullen, is seeking $1.7 million in damages in his age discrimination lawsuit.

Cullen claims the network’s stated reason for firing him – he couldn’t be reached at a time when he was needed – was a pretext. At the time, Cullen says, he was at a training session he’d been ordered to attend, and his bosses knew very well where to find him.
Cite: Cullen v. CBS News Inc.

Your performance has deteriorated.” Translation: You guessed it
A 55-year-old employee of Radio Shack in Denver had a pristine performance record dating back 25 years. Then he got a new supervisor, who quickly put him on two separate performance improvement plans. The employee didn’t think his performance had suddenly deteriorated. He thought he was a victim of age discrimination, and complained to management.

He was fired within five days, before the end of the performance plan he was then on, the EEOC claims in the lawsuit it filed for him.
Cite: EEOC v. Radio Shack.

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