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Letter to Leaders & Swenson Insights

Cat’s Paws, Discrimination, and Coca-Cola

When charges of discrimination are made in your business, the smartest move you can make is to conduct an immediate investigation.

If an investigation isn’t made, there are too many issues that can arise, as in the case of Coca-Cola Bottling of Los Angeles (BCI).

A manager told an HR staff member that an employee was insubordinate. Without getting corroborating evidence (or even conducting an investigation), the HR person gave permission to terminate the employee, who is African American. (The HR person never met the employee or knew he was black).

As it turned out, the employee was accusing the supervisor of harboring racial animus towards black workers. Lawsuits ensued. A federal district court dismissed the lawsuit, but an appeals court reversed the ruling, and the case was headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, when BCI settled with the EEOC for $250,000.

Of course, the legal fees for BCI are likely many times higher than the settlement.

If only the HR department had conducted an investigation (or had an outside consultant do it).

Thanks to HR.BLR.COM.

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