Protecting Employers Since 1985

Mistake Prone IRS Employee Failed To Pursuade Appellate Court Her Discharge Reflected Unlawful “Cultural Bias”  

An IRS employee brought a national origin discrimination lawsuit after being fired for poor performance. The employee’s discharge was preceded by a disciplinary notice that documented over 100 mistakes she had made on the job.  Undaunted by the overwhelming documented evidence of her failed performance, the plaintiff blamed management for its “cultural bias” against her Taiwanese ancestry. An Illinois trial court disagreed, finding the IRS justifiably fired the plaintiff for excessive mistakes. The plaintiff fared no better on appeal, where the court refused to infer cultural bias merely because the plaintiff was Taiwanese. 

Unfortunately, employers face claims like this all too often. Rather than accepting responsibility for their own misconduct or poor performance, some employees assume the culprit is implicit bias toward a protected characteristic. Newsflash – EVERYONE has multiple characteristics protected by law, but absent evidence connecting a protected characteristic disciplinary action, there is no viable claim.  Employers can try to avoid frivolous claims by clearly communicating and documenting performance issues, but as this IRS case shows even a list of 100 mistakes may not dissuade some employees from suing.  At least the IRS won in the end.  

Questions? Contact attorney James Sherman in our Minneapolis office by email or at 952-746-1700

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