Managers’ emails to each other about an African-American employee were used to prove race discrimination in a recent case.

According to the emails, the manager assigned the employee to an African-American supervisor so that she couldn’t claim race discrimination when they fired her. This showed that the manager anticipated firing the employee before her first day of work! Later emails showed she was being considered for termination after working for a month, even though typically new employees needed three to six months to become fully trained

The employee also did not receive the same amount of training as other employees. In emails, her managers claimed that she had a high error rate, but they also admitted they didn’t know what the standard error rate was for other new employees.

Based on the evidence, the Court of Appeals held that the employee had shown the real reason for her termination may have been race discrimination, and allowed the case to go to a jury. (Couch v. Iowa Department of Human Services (Iowa Ct App 10/12/2016))

What this means to you: Treat employees fairly. Employees should be given every opportunity to succeed, and your emails should document that. When you coach and counsel an employee to succeed, you won’t have to fire them. And if all your efforts to train them do not succeed and you do have to fire them, you will have an email trail showing your good faith efforts which will protect you in court. 

Posted 12-06-2016

Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.