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Searching for Articles published in June 2014.
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Mixed Motive For Discrimination Decision - Be Careful

Posted on June 3, 2014, Authored by Dean R. Dietrich, Filed under Employment

A recent Wisconsin Court of Appeals decision highlighted the importance of employers being very careful when making employment decisions to ensure that part of the rationale for a decision is not discriminatory in nature. In this decision, Milwaukee County terminated a manager for violation of County policies on use of technology. During the discussion with the employee, it was indicated he was being terminated because of his arrest for sexual assault which ultimately was dismissed in a criminal proceeding. The other reason for termination was a clear violation of the County policy on use of computers and improper communications using the County e-mail system but that was not discussed at the time of termination. The Court of Appeals found the termination decision was made "in part" for an impermissible reason, being discrimination on the basis of arrest record. The Court of Appeals ultimately found the employee should only receive limited back pay, a large sum for attorneys fees and a cease and desist order against Milwaukee County because there was clear legitimate reason for terminating the employee because of a violation of the e-mail usage policy. Unfortunately, Milwaukee County was found liable because the evidence showed the arrest of the employee was a factor in the decision to terminate the employee. This case is an example of the importance of how an employer communicates a decision to terminate an employee. It is also an example of the need for caution when dealing with arrest and conviction record situations. In this case, the employee ultimately was never arrested but rather was only investigated regarding inappropriate conduct, however, the allegation was still made (and upheld) that the employee was discriminated against because of his arrest record. The only saving point to the action by Milwaukee County was the fact that there was a legitimate reason to terminate the employee for violation of County policy which partially limited the recovery by the employee.

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