Tuesday, September 30, 2014

When the same actor hires and fires, discrimination is unlikely

It seems to be common sense that if the decision maker accused of a discriminatory adverse action is also the individual responsible for earlier hiring that same person, it is unlikely that a discriminatory reason motivated the latter decision. After all, if I discriminate against people of a certain race (or gender, age, religion, etc.), why would I hire them in the first place? Wouldn’t I just not hire them to keep them out of my organization?

Courts refer to this as the “same-actor inference” — inferring a lack of discrimination from the fact that the same individual both hired and fired the employee.

A recent decision from the Southern District of Ohio applied this inference in a case in which a fast-food manager claimed discrimination after the “same actor” hired him, and, shortly thereafter, fired him:

Even Plaintiff’s theory of this case does not suggest race discrimination: it defies logic that a Caucasian manager would hire him in an attempt to replace a minority manager and then “turn the tables” four months later and fire him for being Caucasian.

This is not to say that the same actor can never discriminate. After all, Chevy Chase hired Richard Pryor after lobbing the worst kind of racial bombs across the interview desk. Indeed, in the 6th Circuit, this “same actor” inference is insufficient, in and of itself, to entitle an employer to summary judgment. But, if you are faced with a case in which the same actor is accused of firing after hiring, absent other compelling evidence of discriminatory intent, you will have a great defense to the discrimination claim.


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