There are some employment policies that you can get away with not having. An anti-discrimination policy is not one of them.
In Hubbell v. FedEx SmartPost (decided yesterday by the 6th Circuit), FedEx learned this lesson the hard way.
Sheryl Hubbell worked for Defendant FedEx SmartPost as a parcel sorter. A jury concluded that it retaliated against her after she filed an EEOC charge alleging that her manager demoted her and ultimately fired her after telling her that “females are better suited to administrative roles and males are better suited to leadership roles.” A jury awarded her $519,550, reduced by the trial court to $415,60 (plus an additional $157,733.75 in attorneys’ fees).
This employer made a lot of mistakes that caused this large judgment, but one of the biggest was that it did not have an anti-discrimination policy until 2013, one year after Hubbell claims she started suffering retaliation.
Several of Hubbell’s managers testified that FedEx had an anti-discrimination policy and that they had been trained on this policy. Jessica Benjamins, FedEx’s corporate Human Resources manager, also testified as to FedEx’s anti-discrimination policy. She testified that FedEx conducts annual online “diversity inclusion training” for managers. And she testified that it has long been FedEx’s policy not to discriminate. But FedEx only promulgated a specific policy on non-discriminatory hiring and promotion on November 26, 2013—after Hubbell was demoted and filed her first EEOC complaint
So here’s your homework assignment. Open your employee handbook. Turn to the table of contents. Look for the policy that says, “Discrimination.” If you can’t find it, call me.
This post originally appeared on the Ohio Employer’s Law Blog, and was written by Jon Hyman, Partner, Meyers, Roman, Friedberg & Lewis. Jon can be reached at via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, via telephone at 216-831-0042, on LinkedIn, and on Twitter.