It’s Never Too Late To Take Corrective Action On A Discrimination Claim

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Have you ever thought to yourself when knee-deep in messy litigation, “Wow! If I could only roll back time and do things differently!”? Well, sometimes you can. A recent case illustrates this. In Reeves v. Tennessee Farmers Mut. Ins. Co., No. 13-5824 (6th Cir. Feb. 4, 2014), a Claims Assistant was denied a promotion to a vacant position, and was told by the regional claims manager that he would not select a woman for the job because of unspecified “safety” concerns. The manager then selected a male applicant who was working as a golf pro. Ms. Reeves immediately reported the manager’s statements to the Vice President of Claims. The Company immediately rescinded the offer of employment to the golf pro and reopened the selection process, this time with a new decision-maker. Ms. Reeves again applied, but was not selected. In the second selection process, a woman who had more relevant experience than Ms. Reeves, was promoted. When a sex discrimination suit was brought, the district court in Tennessee and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Ms. Reeves lacked a valid sex discrimination claim because the second selection process completely nullified the first one and was non-discriminatory (as exemplified by the selection of another woman).

This employer completely absolved itself of liability by catching and immediately correcting a serious mistake. Even had the courts allowed the case to go forward, the employer would have benefitted from its corrections by seriously limiting Ms. Reeves damages via the correction process. In other words, employers who own and correct their mistakes tend to fare better than those who ignore them until litigation ensues.