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Court Rules In Favor Of Employer By Deciding Non Discrimination Existed

Peter Maverick
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08/27/12

Florida Appellate Court Rules In Favor Of Employer By Deciding Non Discrimination Existed Merely Because Employer Reorganized Workplace

A Florida appellate court recently ruled in favor of an employer accused of discrimination after it reorganized its workplace. The court explained that "[n]ot every reorganization results in discrimination."

To establish a case of discrimination, an employee must show: (1) the employee belongs to a protected class, (2) the employee applied and was qualified for the position; (3) the employee, despite his qualifications, was rejected; and (4) similarly situated employees outside the employee's protected class were treated more favorably.

In this case, the employee contended that because another person was promoted to a particular position, this qualified the person as a similarly situated employee outside the protected class. The court rejected that argument, and re-framed the issue this way. The employee was in reality contending that because another person outside the employee's protected class was hired for the same position approximately nineteen months after the employee-plaintiff had applied for the position and approximately eighteen months after the employee-plaintiff had resigned from the employer somehow created an inference of discrimination. The appellate explained that the employee's argument was contrary to precedent, citing Kelly v. Caldera, 2000 U.S. Dist.LEXIS 3015, 2000 WL 284263 at *3 (S.D.Ala. Feb. 28, 2000) ("[E]vidence that the Corps created a new position eighteen months after a reorganization in which jobs were eliminated does not create an inference that its decisions were motivated by race").

Courts recognize that employers need the freedom and leeway to reorganize positions and personnel in their workplace. Being sued for discrimination merely because of a reorganization to more efficiently operate a business would create a chill against employers. It is difficult to operate any business, and courts recognize that employers should not have to constantly fear discrimination claims merely because of a management-directed reorganization in the workplace. However, as the economy has become more challenging, employees sometimes believe discrimination exists when it never existed. Therefore it is important that employers exercise due diligence in their human resources documentation by clearly articulating the manner of a reorganization of employee functions.

Attorney Peter Maverick represents management and business owners in employment and labor law. Mr. Maverick has successfully represented many businesses in court as well as in responding to threatened legal action. This article is intended for information purposes only and is not legal advice. This article is not a substitute for legal advice tailored to a particular client's situation. Peter T. Maverick can be reached at: Website: www.mavricklaw.com; Telephone: 954-564-2246; Address: 1620 West Oakland Park Boulevard, Suite 300, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33311; Email: pmavrickesq@yahoo.com.

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