Terminated based on discrimination?

by Sherri
(Minneapolis)

On Sept 18 I was given a Separation Agreement with a lump sum payment offer. I was told it was not based on performance by HR but based on the assessment of talent on the team. I am Black, female, age 62 and have the most seniority on the team. That same day I heard from a colleague who is also Black and female that she too had been let go.

We were the only team members to be let go and the only African Americans. This makes no sense as my performance has been great and documented in each performance review. Do I accept the small lump sum and sign, or do I pursue legal action for this? Is this discrimination and wrongful termination? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Terminated based on discrimination?":

Sherri (Minneapolis):

Whether or not you should accept the small lump sum and sign, or pursue legal action is entirely up to you. Before considering the pursuit of a wrongful termination case, it's important you understand Minnesota’s law on wrongful termination based on discrimination in the workplace.

According to The Office of The Revisor Of Statutes Section 181.932, in the State of Minnesota...

"An employer shall not discharge, discipline, threaten, otherwise discriminate against, or penalize an employee regarding the employee's compensation, terms, conditions, location, or privileges of employment because:

(1) the employee, or a person acting on behalf of an employee, in good faith, reports a violation, suspected violation, or planned violation of any federal or state law or common law or rule adopted pursuant to law to an employer or to any governmental body or law enforcement official;

(2) the employee is requested by a public body or office to participate in an investigation, hearing, inquiry;

(3) the employee refuses an employer's order to perform an action that the employee has an objective basis in fact to believe violates any state or federal law or rule or regulation adopted pursuant to law, and the employee informs the employer that the order is being refused for that reason;

(4) the employee, in good faith, reports a situation in which the quality of health care services provided by a health care facility, organization, or health care provider violates a standard established by federal or state law or a professionally recognized national clinical or ethical standard and potentially places the public at risk of harm;

(5) a public employee communicates the findings of a scientific or technical study that the employee, in good faith, believes to be truthful and accurate, including reports to a governmental body or law enforcement official..."


Proving discrimination in the workplace requires direct evidence.

Direct evidence is a policy, statement or actions made by an employer or an employer’s authorized agent which demonstrates a bias toward a particular group and is linked to an adverse employment action, such as a failure to hire, terminate employment, transfer, or demote an employee.

To prove discrimination you will have to have actual evidence your employer discriminated against you based on those requirements.

In many cases, employers are too smart to expose themselves by blatant acts of discrimination. As a result, you may have to acquire "circumstantial evidence." For example, in your case your employment was terminated based on your employer’s "assessment of talent."

If you are able to find evidence the same assessment was performed for other white employees and their employment was not terminated, then you might have the geneses of a wrongful termination claim.

Unfortunately, getting access to those records may be difficult. It’s unlikely the company will simply open their files to you. Instead, if you want to pursue the action, seek the advice and counsel of an experienced labor law attorney.

If your attorney succeeds in your case you may be entitled to reimbursement for your damages, including lost pay and benefits, emotional distress, and even punitive damages.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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